A judge has ordered that the city of Chaska change its social media terms of use policies and provide First Amendment training to staff handling social media accounts.

The action stems from a lawsuit filed by a local disability advocate, Noah McCourt of Waconia. The suit, in U.S. District Court, also lists Police Chief Scott Knight and Lt. Chris George as defendants.

McCourt said his personal Twitter account was blocked from accessing the Chaska Police Department account, his Tweets were deleted from CPD posts and his Facebook account was not able to comment on the city of Chaska’s Facebook page.

In the suit, he said he believed the CPD’s social media policy was unconstitutional. The city of Chaska and CPD are working on revising their social media policies, according to Communications Manager Kevin Wright.

“We are currently working on revisions. We’ve done some editing to it. We are internally reviewing it,” Wright said. “We are diligently working on it to get it up.”

The police department and city of Chaska have two separate social media policies.

As part of the May 14 judgement, the city of Chaska’s social media terms of use policies will have to be revised “by removing language allowing for blocking of a user or removal of comments classified as (1) personal attacks, (2) factual inaccuracies, (3) not topically related to the particular social medium article being commented upon, and/or (4) from a user who is not using their legal name or otherwise appropriately identifying themselves.”

The city will also have to pay $1,005, plus “reasonable” costs and attorney’s fees accrued to McCourt.

“I think that Chaska really ran afoul with this one because they were prohibiting people from criticizing the government,” McCourt said. “It’s important people can voice their opinions.”

McCourt added he was concerned the revised policy may be ambiguous.

“Many of these social media policies are written ambiguously,” he said. “When you make your policies ambiguous to protect yourself, you end up with claims like mine which question the constitutionality of it.”

Some of the posts McCourt had written were related to an October 2017 altercation with police. In that case, McCourt pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault.

In that incident, McCourt, who said he is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, was reportedly suicidal and was restrained by police officers. McCourt claimed he was undergoing an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder, and was critical of the department following the incident. Knight had responded that officers showed professionalism and care in their response.

McCourt is a former candidate for Waconia City Council; member of the Minnesota Association on Children’s Mental Health board of directors; and speaker at the United Nations in honor of World Autism Day in 2017.

McCourt has filed 13 lawsuits against various governments and organizations such as Carver County, Minnesota County Attorneys Association and cities including Victoria, Norwood Young America, Chanhassen and Waconia.

Seven of those suits have been closed, according to court records.

Most recently, McCourt filed another lawsuit against the city of Chaska on May 3 for access on its website. He said he had issues locating several city policies and was unable to navigate the city’s website to conduct a search, according to the complaint.

McCourt is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and developmental coordination disorder and can often only use a keyboard while working on a computer.

He alleges the city violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and disability discrimination.

That suit is still active against the city.

Staff Reporter

Alex Chhith is a staff reporter at the Chaska Herald. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dogs (Cody and Sam), catching up on the Game of Thrones and finding new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter @AlexChhith.

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