Public officials in Hercules and Pinole may have attempted to silence a citizen commenting on Patch by contacting his employer, according to emails obtained by the Contra Costa Times.
In June, Hercules city councilwoman Myrna de Vera contacted Pinole city engineer Dean Allison about comments made on Patch by Kent Von Aspern who works at HDR Engineering. The company has an $800,000 design contract for the Pinole-Hercules sewage treatment plant. While De Vera denies she asked Allison to silence Von Aspern, Allison sent this email to De Vera on July 3: "I spoke with the VP for HDR about Kent's postings on the Patch. I was told that discussions were made and we should not be seeing any future postings."
In an email to Patch sent Monday evening, De Vera regretted contacting Allison.
The Time’s “Meaning of Free Speech Subject to Debate in Hercules,” exposed an action I am ashamed of and deeply regret. I would like to express my apology to Mr. Von Aspern, HDR, to the City of Pinole, the Pinole-Hercules Waste Water Subcommittee, to the City of Hercules, and to my supporters for my actions regarding Mr. Von Aspern.
I admit the incident was an act of poor judgment on my part. I reacted inappropriately to a citizen's comment posted on a blog by contacting a Pinole official on two occasions. Even though I did not tell the Pinole official to silence the citizen, and the Pinole city official did not direct HDR to do the same, and there is no evidence HDR forced Mr. Von Aspern to stop blogging, my actions have caused the perception of a concerted effort to stifle a citizen’s free speech rights.
And that was very wrong.
I take responsibility for my mistake, and I humbly apologize to those I may have inadvertently hurt.