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Stephens Flip Flops on Free Speech in Desperate Campaign Tactic

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

As June 2nd municipal elections near, the Stephen's campaign for Mayor has ping-ponged furiously between issues that have largely failed to gain traction.

But now weeks prior the election, Stephens seems to have settled on a strategy of raging against the very city that he hopes to lead.

Stephens, who is currently a Ward 8 councilman, even filed a complaint with St. Louis County that among other things, the city did not have enough hand sanitizer at a council meeting during the early days of the pandemic.

In his most recent rant, Stephens includes bits and pieces of disjointed information from a legal suit that has been filed by Tony Salvatore against the city of Wildwood. He vehemently decries what he says is a violation of Salvatore's right to speech, but when he had a chance to change the offending ordinance he voted against affirming speech rights.

Salvatore, who lost two consecutive races in 2018 and 2019 for a city council seat has filed suit against the city. Mr. Salvatore, who, according to the Post-Dispatch, was convicted in 2009 of "interference by a city council member and prohibited acts by a city officer", is alleging that the enforcement of a city ordinance against living signs in Wildwood infringed on his freedom of speech.

On March 27th 2018, Salvatore spoke with KMOV about how he had asked the City to change the ordinance with which he allegedly ran afoul. "We actually told them to change the ordinance so it coincides with the First Amendment of our Constitution," Salvatore told the interviewer with his attorney by his side. The report ended with saying the Wildwood City council might attempt to change the ordinance at its next meeting on April 8th.

Niles Stephens who is now criticizing the City for its alleged violation of Salvatore's speech rights, voted against the ordinance change at the April 8th meeting. Niles Stephens, John Gragnani, Kevin Dillard, John Bopp, and Tim Woerther voted against the change to the ordinance, which failed by a single vote. It was a lock-step vote by those who would later criticize the city for having allegedly violated Salvatore's speech rights under the very ordinance they refused to revise.

On a March 27th interview with KMOV, Salvatore said, "We actually asked them to change the ordinance so it coincides with the First Amendment of our Constitution." Niles Stephens votes no.

Stephens' use of the suit after voting against free speech rights seems to some as a crass political move. Councilman Joe Garritano who like Stephens represents Wildwood's eighth Ward said, "It is shocking that Councilman Stephens, who is supposed to represent the city, engages in unethical behavior by recklessly politicizing a legal matter the city is facing."