SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Update
Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said in a press release that the city's request for a restraining order against Sklyer Michel-Evleth has not been granted.
The Sacramento Superior Court said in its decision "the evidence presented does not meet the applicable legal standard and there are obvious First Amendment concerns. Moreover, some of the evidence provided by the City actually undercut its own position that a temporary restraining order in warranted."
Wood disagreed with the court's assessment, saying in her press release the city takes threats against employees seriously.
"We remain very concerned about Skyler Michel-Evleth’s comments and his refusal to reject the practice of terrorizing the spouses or children of political opponents," Wood said in the release. "We do not accept the attempted re-invention of his violent rhetoric as a peaceful call for responsible government."
In what city attorneys themselves have called an “unusual” move, the City of Sacramento is seeking a temporary restraining order against a recent councilmember hire.
The man at the center of the conversation is Sklyer Michel-Evleth, also known as Skyler Henry. He was appointed by Councilmember Katie Valenzuela to serve as a council representative in District 4.
In a news release, the City's attorneys said Michel-Evleth advocated for physical harassment of public officials that he disagrees with.
Officials pointed to recent protests that happened at the home of City Manager Howard Chan. The City's attorneys said Michel-Evleth said officials who don’t conform to certain policy beliefs “should be terrified every day” of their lives in anticipation of retribution from an angry public.
“This is such an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in, and we are only taking this step because efforts to mitigate the situation were not successful,” City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood said.
She went on to say that Michel-Evleth's right to expression was not the issue, but that he made his coworkers feel that their safety was threatened.
“This isn’t about what Mr. Michel-Evleth believes or his right to express it. Indeed, if holding different opinions and having to work with people who disagree with your opinions were a disqualifier for city work, I expect half of the City workforce might not have been hired," she said. "But the City of Sacramento simply cannot ask employees at City Hall to sit alongside a co-worker who has openly advocated for terror tactics against them."
The latter part is what attorneys said the decision to seek a restraining order was hinged on, the “legal and moral obligation” of the City to provide employees a safe environment.
In a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon, Michel-Evleth said he was “beyond disappointed” by City Council's decision to pursue the option. Sacramento City Council voted to seek the restraining order by an 8 to 1 vote.
“We expected there would be some within the City that objected to my appointment because I have exercised my right to criticize and oppose many of the leaders within our government, including the Mayor, members of City Council, as well as some City staff members. While I can understand why some may have objected to what I've said in the past, seeking a restraining order against me so I cannot go to City Hall and perform the job I was hired to perform is just plain wrong,” he wrote.
In a news release, City attorneys said Michel-Evleth would still be able to work remotely.
“We are not seeking to block his hire or to restrict his right to hold this position,” Alcala Wood said. “We are simply stating that an employer has a responsibility and a legal obligation to provide a safe and secure workplace for its workers, and that the introduction of someone working next to their cubicle who has promoted and advocated terror against City employees would make their workplace unsafe.”
On Facebook, Michel-Evleth said that he gave a letter to councilmembers saying that he didn’t endorse or condone violence toward them or anyone else at the city. He said it also acknowledged that he had “fences to mend.”
“I have never stated I, or anyone else, should commit violence against City leaders or City staff. I have never committed a violent act against anyone,” he wrote. “I firmly believe some members of the City have created this entire situation to suppress dissent and that it reflects a shameful political attack against Councilwoman Valenzuela.”
A press release from NorCal Resist, community social justice group, criticized the restraining order. The group said that numerous protestors in the city have been arrested and held on bail of $100,000, while three activists have been served search warrants to access personal social media accounts.
NorCal Resist likened these instances to that of the restraining order against Michel-Evleth, stating that the moves create "anxiety and fear."
"This is a message to any politician who is not actively fighting for a better
future for our children—you do not deserve to feel comfortable, and political
activists who are fighting for a better future do not deserve to be the targets
of political harassment and repression," the press release said.
City attorneys said that efforts to “explain away” Michel-Evleth’s tweets and public statements as “innocuous” or as calls for open government and accountability to the public were disingenuous.
“Mr. Michel-Evleth articulated his public opinions carefully and precisely,” Alcala Wood said. “He was not ambiguous, cryptic or allegorical. Quite simply, he said what he meant and, we must presume, meant what he said. One must assume that Mr. Michel-Evleth would not have been considered for this position or appointed to it if he were unable to express himself clearly. And in today’s workplace, when someone advocates violence against employees, we have to take them seriously.”
For Councilmember Valenzuela’s part, she posted on social media on June 13, noting that the concern around her recent hire was related to comments highlighted by Fox News.
“The comment, while not eloquently spoken, was that elected officials are beholden to the public that elected them, and should expect to be held accountable for their actions,” she wrote. “Skyler never threatened anyone directly, and did not participate in the recent protests at the homes of Mayor Steinberg and City Manager Chan. He has committed no acts that should cause anyone fear, and has assured me and others that he does not wish any harm on anyone at City Hall.”
The City Attorney asked the court to grant the restraining order this week, before Michel-Evleth would have his first day of work. Officials said there was little else the City was able to do in this situation and that their only legal option was to ask the court for a restraining order. The decision for any restraining order will be decided by the court.