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Town's newsletter soon in mailboxes

Indian Trail residents should get their copies this week of the town's first newsletter, which was printed over a cry of attempted censorship and after one telephone call to the printer to stop the presses.

The controversy centered on one sentence in council member Jeff Goodall's response to this question: “Why did you decide to serve?” The question was asked of each council member.

Goodall's answer provided a short list. Then he added: “For more, visit www.ITCFP.org.”

That Web site is sponsored by the Indian Trail Citizens for Progress political action committee. The group backed Goodall and council member Gary D'Onofrio in last's year's election. At Tuesday's meeting, some council members said it was inappropriate for the newsletter to refer to a political Web site.

The outcry began when council members were sent an electronic copy of the newsletter around mid-month, soon after it was sent to the printer, said Indian Trail Town Manager Ed Humphries.

Humphries said he got calls and e-mails from council members the next day, some upset about the Web site reference. Goodall said it would be censorship to remove the comment, Humphries said. Humphries called the printer and stopped the presses.

During a lengthy discussion at Tuesday's meeting, council members Dan Schallenkamp and John Hullinger objected to including the Web site address.

Mayor John Quinn said it was wrong for the newsletter, which could promote town unity, to “endorse or advertise for one group.” Quinn said the Web site linked to comments complaining about how the town approaches public safety. Schallenkamp said the PAC was largely funded by developers working in Indian Trail.

Town Attorney Keith Merritt said Goodall's comment was considered free speech, which is “highly protected.” He said a Web site would have to be “outrageous” for the town to step in. “I don't think that the town should be in a position of making a determination,” Merritt said, “unless it's clear that the Web site … would meet that standard (of outrageous).”

Council members were given a few lines in the newsletter for responses. Goodall said the first page of the Web site contained the “uncensored” version of why he ran for office.

“I would recommend the town council not censor anything out of this great newsletter and let's get it printed as soon as possible,” Goodall said.

Council members didn't vote, but decided to proceed with printing the newsletter, unchanged. Council member Shirley Howe wasn't present.

Humphries said the newsletter will be mailed by Monday to all Indian Trail households.

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