Settlement reached in Brescia suit

Village pays $37,500 in First Amendment case

By Connor Linskey
Posted 7/21/21

A settlement agreement was reached between the Village of Montgomery, Mayor Steve Brescia and three women who claimed their First Amendment Rights were violated when they were prohibited from …

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Settlement reached in Brescia suit

Village pays $37,500 in First Amendment case

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A settlement agreement was reached between the Village of Montgomery, Mayor Steve Brescia and three women who claimed their First Amendment Rights were violated when they were prohibited from speaking at a public meeting with Medline representatives on June 4, 2019.

Terms of the settlement were released last week by Michael Sussman, attorney for Jessica Gocke, Susan Cockburn and Deborah Corr who filed suit in 2019.

As part of the settlement, the village, through its insurer, agreed to pay the plaintiffs the total sum of $37,500. Sussman reported the check was received at his office. He said the settlement agreement was also to include a written apology from Brescia, though it could not be learned if the mayor had signed the statement which was to have read: “I write to express my regret that I excluded residents of the Town of Montgomery and neighboring towns, specifically Jessica Gocke, Deborah Corr, and former Town of Montgomery Supervisor Susan Cockburn from speaking at the public meeting held to discuss the Medline warehousing project in June 2019. I apologize. I recognize the critical value of the First Amendment and that freedom of speech and robust disagreement over issues define our way of life and recommit myself to those principles.”

At the meeting on June 4, 2019, Brescia announced that only Village of Montgomery residents were allowed to speak when Town of Montgomery resident Susan Cockburn attempted to ask a Medline representative a question. Police officers prevented her from speaking although she was allowed to stay at the meeting.

Town of Crawford resident Jessica Gocke also attempted to speak but was escorted out by police officers. She was later allowed back in the meeting.

Plaintiffs Cockburn, Gocke and Gocke’s mother Deborah Corr filed a lawsuit against Brescia and the Village of Montgomery in United States Southern District Court in White Plains in July 2019. Cockburn noted that the plaintiffs worked to obtain the settlement because a person’s First Amendment Rights are sacred.

“We wanted him to acknowledge that he violated the First Amendment,” she said.

Furthermore, Cockburn was disappointed that Brescia did not issue a public apology.

“It’s exemplary of a real issue with this individual,” she said.

Cockburn added that residents should have been notified how much their taxes were financing Brescia and the Village of Montgomery’s attorney for the case.

Neither Brescia nor his attorney Leo Dorfman of Sokoloff Stern LLP responded to requests for comment from the Wallkill Valley Times.

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