- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) - Bellevue has been threatened with a lawsuit by the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union if it passes and enforces a citizen code of conduct.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1M6Ksj8 ) reports that the “Bellevue Nebraska Citizen Code of Conduct” says that individuals who enter city buildings must show respect for the facilities and use common courtesy with others. The code also says that they should not use lewd or offensive behavior and cause disturbances.

Amy Miller of the civil liberties group said in a letter to the city that the policy is unconstitutionally vague and covers speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

“We see a re-occurring pattern with local governments that try to stop people from grouching at them,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, Bellevue isn’t the only city trying to shut down critical speech, but free speech rights are very strong.”

But city administrators say they want the policy in place to deal with citizens who cause problems for city staff.

“The City of Bellevue will not tolerate harassing conduct that affect employment conditions, that interferes unreasonably with an individual’s job performance or that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment,” the policy states. People who don’t adhere to the policy would be asked to leave city property and could be banned for egregious or multiple offenses.

“There is always a fine line for free speech issues,” Miller said. “I can tell you what I think in strong language, but I can’t grab your lapels while I do it. Offensive language… what’s offensive? Being grumpy? Using bad words? It’s too vague. Some are flat-out unconstitutional. We’re very concerned about (Bellevue) casting a wide net.”

The city council will vote on the policy on Monday.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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