Ralph C. Ohm
Attorney at Law
211 Hobson Avenue
Post Office Box 1558
Hot Springs National Park Arkansas, 71902-1558
I do understand that one of the fiduciary duties of a principal to his client is “obedience”, and you were clear in stating that you were writing on the instruction of Judge Davis. But as a real estate broker who also has a fiduciary duty of obedience in representing clients, I understand that there are limits to how far that duty extends.
The high obligation of upholding the U.S. Constitution is at issue here. It is an obligation that elected officials enter into with a formally executed oath, a duty that your client appears to be assertively violating here … with your assistance.
If such arguments as you have conveyed to me were being made in your courtroom, I would certainly hope that you, as presiding judge, would promptly dismiss any effort to blatantly quash a citizen’s First Amendment Constitutional Rights.
Reading through your letter (see attached) the following issues are addressed:
- Use of a graphic that is referred to as “the Garland County Logo“.
- Use of the term “Garland County“.
- No “permission from Garland County Arkansas, Rick Davis, or any other individuals associated with Garland County, Arkansas, to portray yourself as an official representative of the County.“
- No permission to use any photo images of County Judge Rick Davis.
- Your “request” immediately followed by “you are instructed” to remove all of the images promptly.
- Your statement that I should remove the term “Garland County” from identification concerning the website in question (garlandcounty.info).
You stated that I was acting without permission, consent or authorization. I disagree with that assertion and say in reply that there is permission, there is consent, and there is authorization for the content of the garlandcounty.info website. That permission, consent, and authorization does not come from government officials, but derives from the free speech and freedom of the press clauses in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and is affirmed by over two centuries of case law adjudicated since Virginia became the last of the original states to ratify the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
In response to your statement that I should remove the term “Garland County” from my website, it may be of interest to you that a Google search of the term “Garland County” inside parenthesis, that I did immediately prior to writing this sentence yielded a count of about 373,000 results. I am sure that most of those sites did not receive authorization from Judge Davis or the Garland County Quorum Court to use those two words in their respective websites and content, and I suspect most would laugh at the suggestion that they needed such permission. If the free speech and freedom of the press clauses in the Bill of Rights does not cover use of the term “Garland County”, then you may need to spend many hours sending out thousands more intimidating letters to violators on behalf of Judge Davis … so as not to discriminate.
With regard to the “garlandcounty.info” domain name and the suggestion that I should discontinue use of it because visitors may think it is an “official” site, the federal government has a system established so that people can immediately tell whether or not a website is an official government site or not. The domain extension “.GOV” is reserved exclusively for government use.
I did a search on the GSA operated .GOV Domain Name Registration Service (https://www.dotgov.gov/portal/web/dotgov/whois) which showed GARLANDCOUNTY.GOV to be available (see attachment)! Thus far the county has elected to use a “dot org” domain extension which is one of many extensions (e.g. .com, .net, .org, .info, .us, .tv, etc.) openly available for purchase by anyone or any organization that elects to do so. Whether there has been a deliberate decision made not to use a .GOV domain or whether the explanation is negligence on the County’s part in not using a .GOV domain name, the county should own responsibility for any alleged confusion or difficulty viewers might have in knowing whether or not they are visiting an official government site. I say “alleged confusion” because to date no one has told me that they were confused (not that any internet site operator has any legal or moral obligation to protect the public from misperception). If any confusion really does exist, County officials have no legitimate grounds to blame me or anyone else for an issue caused by the County’s failure to establish a .GOV domain for its “official” website.
In instructing me to remove “the photo image of Garland County Judge, Rick Davis, and the county logo from any and all web pages that you are developing, have developed, or are in the process of maintaining”, you have added one more name to a very short list of individuals that I am warned that posting images of will be at my own peril. So far as best as I have been able to determine, there are only two names on that list:
- Islam’s Prophet Mohammad
- Garland County Judge Rick Davis
Should I decline to comply with your instruction to remove current content and to censor future content, what do I risk? Criminal prosecution? Litigation? Beheading?
Do you seriously think there is any need of permission prior to publication of photos or video of public officials? Garland County is not located in Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, or North Korea.
My response to your letter was delayed while I awaited response to eight questions (which I have attached) from the FOIA request I sent to the Garland County Clerk about the “Official County Seal”. It seems that there is no official Garland County seal in existence, and the graphic in question does not belong to Garland County, but to the Cromwell Group which has notified Judge Davis of its retained ownership rights to the seal.
Since becoming aware of the Cromwell Group’s Garland County seal not being public property or released into the public domain, I have removed it from the background of the garlandcounty.info website and the companion Garland County Info Facebook Group Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/garlandcountyinfo), replaced for the time being with a seal of my own design.
It seems extremely unfortunate that Judge Davis does not welcome the existence of a website that promotes respect for property rights of Garland County citizens and that serves to increase transparency and accountability of local government, and unfortunate as well that he has not elected to have his office voluntarily provide content for it. You should know that not all of the Garland County elected officials who you are on retainer to represent in Garland County government share the desire of Judge Davis to shut down garlandcounty.info. For example, another of your clients, Garland County Treasurer Tim Stockdale posted the following comment in response to your letter to me on the “Garland County Info” Facebook Group page that is a companion to the garlandcounty.info website:
Tim Stockdale I think your website looks fantastic Clay and I honestly appreciate you sharing all of the information with tax payers. As usual I will continue to provide you with any and all information you request. I think that anything, which casts a positive image of our County should be welcomed with open arms. I appreciate you sharing the treasurer’s office information on your website including the official treasurer’s office logo. My office has no secrets and I thank you for sharing the Garland County Treasurer’s office information on your website!!!
Garland County Treasurer
Regarding any interest that Garland County may have in purchasing the garlandcounty.info domain, the $50,000-$70,000 price range previously mentioned by Judge Davis as a cost for a website might be reasonable, however I have no interest at all in selling without assurance that the domain would continue to be used for the original intended purpose of increased transparency and accountability of Garland County Government.
If you have any questions or wish to discuss any matter, please give me a call, email, or better yet feel free to come by for a face to face visit at my office. Sincerely,
Clay Herrmann – Garland County Resident, Garland County Property Owner, Garland County Citizen, & Garland County Registered Voter
4246 Park Avenue
Hot Springs, AR 71901
P.S. I don’t believe you were in attendance, but perhaps you are aware that without any prior private conversation or notice I was blind-sided by an accusation of wrongdoing in a public meeting of a Quorum Court Committee by elected officials who you serve as attorney for. The accusation made was reported on the front page of the Sentinel Record (video of same is available at http://garlandcounty.info/tabled-indefinitely). Should I be looking for a public apology at an upcoming QC meeting and on the front page of the Sentinel Record?