State, federal suits target Town Council

Cecilia Chan

East Valley Tribune

Town Council members returned to work last week after the Memorial Day break to find they’re being sued by three residents who were cast out of a public meeting nine months ago.

Dr. Brandon Ryff, Ryan Handelsman and Joanne Terry filed a federal lawsuit May 26 alleging their freedom of speech was violated when Mayor Brigette Peterson in a retaliatory move against her political opponents ordered police to remove them for silently holding signs at the back of council chambers. The entire council and the Town are named as defendants and were served last Wednesday.

Ryff also filed a state lawsuit against the council and the town, claiming the mayor and town “acted with actual malice in defaming” him.

“Gilbert was served at noon (Wednesday) and we have engaged outside counsel to review and defend the Town in litigation,” spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison said in an email. “Due to the litigation, the Town will not be commenting further.”

The two suits were preceded by claims for damages that were deemed denied because Gilbert officials took no action within the 60-day time limit.

“The mayor targeting and violating the constitutional rights of residents she dislikes, for expressing a viewpoint with which she disagrees, is obviously a problem — a problem the mayor could easily have resolved with just a simple apology,” Ryff said in an email.


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June 2023