One of the incumbents in our campaign is very adept at dodging issues.

While it is wise to take counsel, to study an issue and weigh alternative resolutions, at some point, as an elected official and leader, you must take a stand. Maybe it will upset your neighbors, maybe it will generate bad press, maybe it will hurt your long term political prospects – but you must eventually form and express an opinion. In the bureaucratic world, when pressed to answer, you might be able to dodge by endlessly shuffling paper or invoking important sounding harrumphs – such as our incumbent – about his quasi-judicial standing.

There is such a thing as quasi-judicial standing. As a Councilmember you must weigh all sworn evidence and testimony entered at a public hearing before making a “ruling” on an issue. Until the hearings are closed, due process demands that you can’t make a fixed decision.

But, as Chapel Hill’s Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos pointed out in this 1995 memo, and in every subsequent election year, that doesn’t preclude an incumbent from commenting on open issues that have quasi-judicial standing.

When asked about the merits of…[a] pending quasi-judicial application, preface your response with some comment to the effect that:

1. “This is a matter which is pending before the Council…
2. the evidence has not all been presented…

…[etc.]…

Having so prefaced your remarks, I think it would be reasonable and acceptable to proceed with your comments on the merits…

The memo is very clear on how an incumbent can bracket their statements and still use their First Amendment right to speak and be heard.

So, fellow citizens, it’s time to pull that quasi-judicial veil aside and talk to the man behind the curtain.

He has every Right and responsibility to answer.

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