The city of Provo did not interfere with a free-lance journalist's First Amendment rights or due process, the U. S. District Court for Utah decided last week in a case dismissal.
Peggy Burdett claims the city denied her and her husband utility assistance through a city-regulated aid program after she wrote and published articles criticizing city policies.The Burdetts claim they should have had help because Mark Burdett has a medical condition, though its specifics were not included in court records.
But Provo city maintains the request was denied because the Burdetts had received help for three consecutive years with funds meant to be used on a one-time basis only, according to the ruling.
When Mark Burdett learned that the city would not pay his full utility bill in 1993, he threatened to embarrass the city in some way, court records state.
For this reason, the city says it forwarded to the Provo city attorney a request from Peggy Burdett for public records detailing the city's credit card charges, which she implied would be used in a news article.
The Burdetts allege that the city attorney and an editor at the Salt Lake Tribune - one of the papers that occasionally published Peggy Burdett's articles - conversed about her husband's confidential medical condition and other financial information on the couple's assistance application.
The disclosure allegedly took place when the attorney called the editor to ask if the credit records were actually going to be used for a Salt Lake Tribune story.
The couple says the newspaper refrained from printing Peggy Burdett's news stories as a result of this conversation.
But U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled that no government action restrained Peggy Burdett's freedom of speech as she was free to publish her work in other publications even if the Salt Lake Tribune had refused.
The court also said Provo didn't deprive the Burdetts of "life, liberty or property," and, therefore, wasn't in violation of the due process clause. The utility assistance program was never guaranteed to the Burdetts, the ruling states.