Links To Sheboygan Police Not Authorized By City

    August 26, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

A Sheboygan, Wisconsin woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor of the town and other city officials after being ordered to remove a link to the city’s police department website. If it goes to trial, it could be a landmark case settling the right to link.

Odds are it settles, though, because it looks pretty bad for Mayor Juan Perez.

Jennifer Reisinger alleges in her suit that the cease and desist letter she received from the city attorney was a form of retaliation for participating in a failed recall against the mayor. She also claims a subsequent criminal investigation sent her Web marketing business down in a hail of death threats.

As exaggerated as that sounds (though, Brat City Web Design does have a closed sign on it), it does appear the city targeted Reisinger’s link to the police dept. website, which should be no different, says a lawyer quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, than posting the street address.

Though the Sheboygan Police Dept. website doesn’t list any linking restrictions on its taxpayer-funded homepage—linking restrictions aren’t posted on the City’s website either—City Attorney Stephen McLean’s C&D letter to Reisinger justifies the action because the link made it appear her site was affiliated with or endorsed by the City and that the link wasn’t authorized.

According to the lawsuit, Mayor Perez consulted McLean about the link and the lawyer told the mayor linking to the police website wasn’t illegal, but he could send a C&D anyway, which the mayor subsequently ordered. In a response to the letter, Reisinger agreed to remove the link, even if she thought the timing was interesting and that the idea was "silly."

The CRG Network has taken up Reisinger’s cause by filing Freedom of Information requests to acquire internal records regarding the incident. They also provide the nifty "Don’t Link Me Bro" icon.

In one email, Mayor Perez chastises Chief of Police David Kirk for telling him the police department had never authorized link. The mayor refers back to Reisinger’s statement that Officer John Winter, who runs the police’s site, had given her permission. "Officer Winter is not authorized to give this type of permission to any website owner," wrote Perez.

As for the investigation, it’s hard to tell where the buck begins and where it stops. An investigating officer tries to confirm with the mayor via email that he does not want to be interviewed about the investigation into the conduct of Officer Winter, but the mayor says the investigation is the Chief’s doing not his. In an email later, Kirk denies any investigation into Reisinger’s link.

The Wikipedia page on Mayor Perez makes a brief mention of the recall attempt, and maintains that "Since the recall effort, the city population has not been at odds with Perez," this email from a citizen asking him not to "be a douche" notwithstanding.