Gov Scott's LSHA Board Votes to Prosecute Citizen for Cyberstalking Without Seeing Evidence
Posted February 12, 2015 12:45 pm | Part II
The clip (outlined in red) that citizen Barbara Lemley posted to the Internet. It is directly from the Lake Shore Hospital Authority Minutes, which are here. The Craigslist post is here.
COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – As Monday's Lake Shore Hospital Authority meeting swung into gear it became obvious why Manager Berry wouldn't allow public or press access to the supporting material before the meeting. Moments after Board Chair Lory Chancy gaveled the meeting to order, she moved to have added to the agenda an item which had been in the hands of the Authority for days, the Lake City Police Offence Report against citizen Barbara Lemley – the charge: Cyberstalking.
Chairwoman Lory Chancy
Chairwoman Chancy, under the direction of Manager Berry, announced: amendment to the agenda concerning what we received in response to the problem with Craigslist. The item was added to the agenda.
Board member Janet Creel got right to the point, " What did it cost us to track down this thing on Craigslist?"
Manager Berry responded, "Nothin'."
Ms. Creel followed up, "Is this person responsible?"
Manager Berry answered, "Well, we're fixin' to let the attorney talk about that if you will hold on just a minute."
Ms. Creel was insistent, "I just want to know if it cost this board money.”
Chairwoman Chancy jumped in, "OK. The unfinished business we are going to address right now is Craigslist.”
Attorney Fred Koberlein
Manager Berry said the LCPD investigation is complete. He asked Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein to explain:
"Members of the Board, as you just heard, the investigating agency which is the Lake City Police Department is (unintelligible) false advertisement posted on behalf of the Hospital Authority was from an individual who is a registered customer of Comcast and located in the Lake City area. The police department met with the State Attorney's Office on January 29th of this year and determined that the false advertisement and posting is within the criteria of cyber stalking... At this time the police department is waiting for the Hospital Authority's decision as to whether it desires to proceed with a formal criminal complaint, which would then be forwarded to the State Attorney Office for a criminal prosecution. Tonight the board needs to formally decide how it wishes to instruct the police department to proceed."
According to Investigator Greear of the Lake City Police Department, the complaint affidavit had already been filed with the LCPD. There was no reason "to instruct the police department" to do anything.
Mr. Koberlein told the Board that it could decide to advise the Police Department to turn the matter over to the State Attorney or do nothing. Mr. Koberlein did not present anything in the way of evidence to the Board. The Board had in its possession the final police report which neither Mr. Koberlein, nor Manager Berry, nor any member of the Board was willing to share with the public or the press.
Board member Marc Vann asked if the Police Department had an opinion.
Authority Manager Berry Monday night.
Mr. Koberlein said he only had the police report and claimed to have not spoken to "anyone individually." Mr. Koberlein read from the report, "On January 29th, I [Greear] went to the State Attorney's Office and had a meeting with several attorneys. As this incident was discussed it was revealed that the incident at hand is within the criteria of cyber stalking."
Manager Berry: His take on law enforcement and his job.
On Feb. 4, Investigator
I made contact with the Jack Berry subject and he was advised of my findings. I was then told that after considering the facts,he [sic] felt the best way to address the issue at hand, was present this matter to the Board of Trustees and that they would vote on whether or not they wanted to have this matter forwarded to the State Attorney's office for review. I was advised that the final decision should be made by the board and not an individual.
Manager Berry addressed the Board, "May I interject one thing and explain a little differently. It is my job if something comes up involving this authority, that I think may be a criminal act -- I am to report it to law enforcement agency. Law enforcement agency then does an investigation and they refer all these investigations to the State Attorney's Office who makes a decision whether he is going to prosecute or not. And then once, if he files charges, then it goes to court. This is a natural process.”
Ms. Creel asked, "It is not up to us. It's up to the State's Attorney?"
Manager Berry responded, "It is up to us to forward to the State Attorney.”
Mr. Vann added, "So basically is it because we are a board we have to kinda decide if we think somebody misrepresentin' us warrants bein' looked at further?'
Manager Berry answered, "Exactly."
This is the Craigslist post provided by Ms. Lemley.
Attorney Koberlein explained, "You would be instructing, for example, Mr. Berry to contact the Police Department and advise how the entity wishes to move."
Mr. Vann asked, "Did the report refer to it as cyberstalking?"
Mr. Koberlein responded, "Yes sir, it mentioned on the 29th, presumably Officer Greear who was writing the report met with several attorneys at the State Attorney's Office.”
Board member Tim Murphy
Board member Tim Murphy asked, "You readin' this off the – what report?"
Mr. Koberlein directed Mr. Murphy to the police report.
Your reporter asked for a copy of the report. "You guys are going to vote on this tonight... you are going to take action."
Manager Berry whispered to Chairwoman Chancy, "Public comments are over."
Chairwoman Chancy announced, "Public comments are over."
Senator Joe Negron's SB50 provides the public the right to address a board before it votes.
Your reporter asked again for permission to speak before the vote. Mr. Berry whispered again. Ms. Chancy said public comments are over.
Local attorney, Kit Carson, was in the audience. He suggested postponing the decision.
Chairwoman Chancy jumped in, "No. We can't postpone the decision. We have been working on this for over a month."
Your reporter again pointed out the violation of SB50.
Mr. Koberlein remained silent.
Ms. Creel said, "It's against the law what was done – according to this."
Board member Dr. Waseem Khan made a motion recommending the LCPD turn its information over to the State Attorney, which according to Investigator Greear had already done.
The vote was unanimous.
Mr. Koberlein then opined that the Board could also go after the alleged perpetrator in a civil action. He said, "This matter could be handled in a civil matter, also. The board may file a civil lawsuit against the wrongdoer for the illegal conduct based on my very brief review."
According to the Lake City Police Department, Barbara Lemley violated § 784.048(2) of the Florida Statutes: (2) A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083./p>
As can clearly be seen in the Craigslist postings of Ms. Lemley, she mentioned no person from the Authority – Not Jack Berry; not anybody. Jack Berry had to know this when he read the posting before he contacted the police.
Ms. Lemley's reporting what she heard and quoting from the minutes and agenda of the Hospital Authority, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, is a constitutionally protected activity. Even if Ms. Lemley got it wrong, what she did is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
It is clear from what Ms. Lemley posted on Craigslist that she threatened no one.
Finally, what Ms. Lemley posted would have had to serve no legitimate purpose.
It was clear from the minutes, agenda, and conversation at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority meetings that Manager Berry wanted to re-do the Authority website. As a result of Ms. Lemley's postings, anyone who read Craigslist was alerted to that fact. As Mr. Berry pointed out to the police, he was receiving emails about the re-do of the website.
The Observer examined those emails and it appears, based on those replies, the Authority stood to save a lot of the public's money on its website design.
Ms. Lemley told the Observer:
"I did nothing wrong. All I did was try to save the taxpayers of Columbia County some money. If that is against the law, then my suggestion for the citizens of Columbia County would be not to participate and attend public meetings. This is a smoke screen for what is comparable to a government-sponsored SLAPP suit, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation."
Part I: LSHA Board - LCPD Agree: Quoting Official Minutes & Agendas is Cyber Stalking in Columbia County