Jim Nugent Responds to Accusations of Gender Bias Against Councilwoman Caitlin Copple
Caitlin Copple is still getting criticism from a perennial attendee of city council meetings, Kandi Matthew-Jenkins. It all stems from how Copple chose to respond to a comment back in December, when her crusade to criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks first got publicly debated. After Copple described the non-sitting action of a
transient solicitor chasing a pregnant woman in downtown Missoula, a young man described his experiences growing up in Chicago, which he likened to a war zone, and contrasted the debate about solicitors to one being had by a bunch of privileged white people.
Caitlin Copple, seemingly offended at being referred to as white and privileged (she is), wanted to remind this young man that having a penis means he can’t understand the constant fear women experience while downtown, where the solicitors (with penises) roam freely, chasing pregnant women every chance they get.
Luckily for Copple, city attorney Jim Nugent says she’s in the clear:
In a March 18 legal opinion, however, city attorney Jim Nugent said Copple’s comments do not appear to be constitutional violations, and Matthew-Jenkins isn’t eligible to launch a recall attempt since she lives in a different ward than Copple.
“The city council member comments do not violate any discrimination law,” Nugent wrote. “The city council member did not refuse, withhold or deny anything from anyone based on their protected class status.”
Now the trick will be how to legally stifle Matthew-Jenkins from expressing her disdain for Copple.
Matthew-Jenkins, who comments frequently at council meetings, had voiced her complaints against Copple for weeks. Her strident tone and direct attack on Copple concerned some council members, including council president Marilyn Marler and councilman Alex Taft, who has cited a council rule that calls for order at the meetings.
The rules mandate decorum from council members, the mayor, staff and members of the public “to maintain a productive atmosphere and the integrity of governmental business.
“Comments may indicate a concern for an issue … (but) may not include use of loud, threatening or abusive language, ” reads a portion of the rules.
Matthew-Jenkins, though, said she never meant to intimidate Copple, and she said the Ward 4 representative isn’t “incapable of working hard.” At the same time, Matthew-Jenkins said she will not be deprived of her right to free speech.
If Copple is feeling threatened, I guess she is proving that threatening behavior is possible from people without penises.