Mount Pleasant publisher says city leader pitched papers - WSMV Channel 4

Mount Pleasant publisher says city leader pitched papers

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MOUNT PLEASANT, TN (WSMV) -

The drinking water in Mount Pleasant has been making headlines for months, and it's now spilled over into a First Amendment fight.

Residents say they have reason to believe the city manager confiscated copies of a local paper after it criticized her handling of the water quality problems.

Copies of the Mount Pleasant Review disappeared Friday across town, and witnesses say City Manager Michelle Williams snatched up every copy of the city's free weekly newspaper she could find.

"What bothers me and what really irks me is to think a local government, if they don't like the news, they can go around and collect all the newspapers, bundle them up and destroy them," said Ed Brennan, with the group Helping Hands.

The paper has written several articles challenging the city, including one about the expense of a new conference, another about the firing of a city worker and one that publisher Cindy Stafford says drew a demand for a retraction.

That story centered on 4-year-old Mia Boyd and her family's lawsuit against the city after she allegedly contracted gastroenteritis from city water.

"[Williams] is trying to control what I do in the paper, but she can't do that. This is my paper. I own this paper. The city doesn't own it," Stafford said.

There is no crime against stealing a free newspaper, but the advertisers who pay to have their message seen by readers only to have it end up in a garbage bin may feel cheated.

"It made me furious to know that somebody would stoop that low to pick up these papers," Stafford said.

Channel 4 News tried several times to speak with Williams at her office for comment on this story, but she was in a closed-door meeting. Follow-up phone calls have not yet been returned.

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