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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Pt I  City Council Discovers 2014 Rules of Decorum Mayor Witt Asks All Speakers to Follow the Rules


Mayor Witt reads the rules of decorum as City Clerk Audrey Sikes looks on. Also in photo: Councilman Jake Hill (plaid shirt) and Councilman Chris Greene.

LAKE CITY, FL – Monday night, February 4, 2019, Lake City Mayor Steve Witt, for the first time since January 21, 2014, specifically referenced the City's rules of "Decorum." The rules were brought up matter-of-factly before any speakers were invited to the lectern to address the City Council. Lake City resident and community activist Sylvester Warren was caught by surprise. City Manager Joe Helfenberger wasn't. Both had a problem abiding by the rules.

Background

Because of considerable litigation through the years regarding the public's right to be heard during public meetings and a 2010 Florida 1st District Court of Appeals case, which found that Florida's Sunshine Law did not give the public the right to speak at public meetings (Keesler v. Community Maritime Park Associates, Inc., 32 So. 3d 659 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010)), on July 1, 2013, the Florida legislature passed what came to be known as SB50, which became codified in the FL statures as section 286.0114.

This law gave the public the right to be heard and set out the rules.

While many communities passed legislation because it was needed, Lake City always gave the public the right to be heard and the City's ordinance, passed in 1968, gave the public up to 15 minutes to address the City Council.

However, City Resolution 2014-004 codified SB50 into the rules of the City and supplemented the 1968 City ordinance.

The City does not have a copy of the "Rules" available at City meetings. It appears that this will change.

Your reporter has never seen Mayor Witt deny anyone the right to address the Council, although after a warning and a few f-bombs speakers and audience members have been escorted out of meetings by the police.

Monday Night in City Hall

Before anybody came to the microphone Mayor Witt addressed the Council and the public: "Persons wishing to address Council at this time. I have a couple, but before we begin -- this is been somethin' that I have been dealing with for months now and I spoke to our staff and we have a City Council Resolution 2014-004, which addresses the rules of City Council authorizing behavior in the City Council chambers. I ask that the clerk distribute that to all the council members for their review... If we need a workshop, we'll do that."

Mayor Witt explained: "Basically, what it says is that people that address the Council should address the Council as a whole, not individually, no personal attacks by the audience or council members, and that's going to be strictly complied with. It's on page 10 of the rules and it will be available for any members of the public that would like to have them. With that we will move to Mr. Sylvester Warren."

The procedure articulated in the City Resolution is a procedure that is followed throughout America in every hamlet, village, city, etc. It is the way local, state, and the federal government does its business. All business goes through the chair.

Part II: Mayor Witt Invites Community Activist Sylvester to the Microphone

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