Stew Lilker’s

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City Manager Rewrites City Rules of Procedure: Proposes photo ban; police power to remove citizens without warning

LAKE CITY, FL –  On Monday night at 6 pm at a City workshop, City Manager Wendell Johnson is proposing an update to the "Rules of the City Council," specifically, formalizing the rules of procedure for public participation. Mayor Steven Witt's open meeting and liberal public participation policies have been commended by everyone, including a Three Rivers Legal Services attorney who said at one City Council meeting, "I like what I see here." City Manager Johnson is proposing a Lake Shore Hospital Authority like photo ban, banning photos of the Council at work and giving the police the power to remove folks without warning from City Council meetings.

Agenda Material: Distribution time behind the times

It has been the practice of the City Manager to prepare and have the City Council agenda and the associated supporting material ready for distribution on Friday afternoon. City Council meetings are Monday evening.

City Manager Johnson is now proposing to move to Thursday the deadline for City agenda availability.

Last year City Manager Johnson announced to the North Florida Broadband Authority that he could have the City's agenda material prepared a week in advance.

In 2006, Columbia County residents overwhelmingly approved by 82% a County Charter revision calling for the County's Agenda Material to be posted on the internet on Fridays for the County's following Thursday meetings. This is called Enhanced Public Notice.

In 2011, Lake Shore Hospital Authority's Jack Berry led a charge to revoke the Enhanced Public Notice provision. It failed.

City Manager Johnson's proposal does not support Enhanced Public Notice.

Photo Ban: taking another page from the Hospital Authority

Again, City Manager Johnson's proposal is taking a page from the Jack Berry led Hospital Authority which recently banned photos of its Governor appointed board doing its official business.

The City Manager is proposing essentially the same policy, which if enacted would ban the photos in important stories such as this: Lake City Florida: Police Chief & City Manager In, Confederate Flag - Jury Out

Police Response: Johnson proposes an iron fist

City Manager Johnson is going one step beyond the recent reign of terror at the County Commission by codifying Section 871.01 of the FL Statutes into the City rules.

City Manager Johnson's proposal has the following wording:  Section 871.01, Florida Statutes declares that any person who willfully interrupts or disturbs any assembly of people meeting for any lawful purpose shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, and may be arrested by police officers present." This is only part of the statute.

City Manager Johnson then added language not in the law:

This may be done in the absence of the conduct being noted, or of the offender being called to order, by the presiding officer.

The City Manager's proposal left out the full wording of § 871.01 the title of which is: Disturbing schools and religious and other assemblies, and goes on to state "(1) Whoever willfully interrupts or disturbs any school or any assembly of people met for the worship of God or for any lawful purpose commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083."

The Florida Supreme Court has recognized problematic nature of § 871.01 when it stated that the statute

can only be constitutional if narrowly construed to avoid the grave danger of criminalizing conduct that is protected under our First Amendment... Specifically, this Court held that a person must have deliberately acted to create a disturbance in order to commit a criminal offense under section § 871.01. (S.H.B. v. State, 355 So. 2d 1176 (Fla. 1977).


There are many communities that have model Rules of Procedure. City Manager Johnson might look to Lake City's neighbors to the south, Alachua County, for a few hints.

Alachua County is on many lists as one of the best places to live. A look at downtown Gainesville and downtown Lake City tells all. (scroll to the end for downtown Lake City).

The City Council needs to ask itself if codifying § 871.01 into Lake City's Rules of Procedure and banning photos is the message it wants to send.

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