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Lake City News

City Manager Johnson's Proposed Rules Reviewed: Photo ban & police power to remove citizens without warning stay

The Lake City Reporter's cub reporter Steve Richmond and everyone else may soon be banned from photographing speakers at the City Council.

LAKE CITY, FL –  Last night the City Council reviewed City Manager Wendell Johnson’s Proposed Rules of Procedure. It wasn’t clear if anyone other than the City Manager and the City Clerk had thoroughly gone through the City Manager’s Rules before the meeting.

Page by page the council members silently reviewed the 15 pages adding comments here and there about the ministerial duties of the City Council and the City Manager.

The City Manager's proposal to have the City Council's agenda material ready for distribution by the Thursday before the Council's Monday meeting was rejected and moved back to Friday.

City Manager Wendell Johnson does not like his photo taken. Soon after this photo was taken, the City Manager ducked out of the frame.

The City's Rules now recognize a 15 minute time limit for public comment. This has been moved to 5 minutes, while giving the Mayor the authority to extend the time on an individual as needed basis.

City Manager Johnson rejected the Big Red Clock and gong as used by the County. Public comment at City Council meetings has never been an issue and it appears it won't be in the future.

Councilman Paulk wanted to make sure he could answer a question if asked one by the public. It was agreed that he could.

In most parts of the civilized world photos are not an issue. Public officials expect their photos to be taken.

City Manager Johnson said about his rules, "This is a policy. It's only intended as a source of direction... Sometimes issues are going to dictate your actions."

Unlike in the County, the City always allowed anyone the right to speak, putting the issue of filling out a card secondary. Speakers have always had the ability to fill out an information card after the meeting.

City Manager Johnson's rules have clouded this issue. He said, "It's the judgment of the presiding officer. If you've already went through the public comment section. If somebody comes in after it's over and wants to fill out a card and speak, you know – you've missed your chance."

No one suggested a public comment section at the end of the meeting.

The word is the City's daily print newspaper, the Lake City Reporter, whose professed job is to be a cheerleader for the City, is not happy about the photo ban. When the Lake Shore Hospital Authority recently invoked a photo ban it was silent.

There was a long pause as the council members silently read the page which included City Manager Johnson's proposed photo ban of the council in action. 

Mayor Witt said he and City Attorney Darby would do some research.

After the meeting, long time City Councilman George Ward told the Observer, "For now, the photo ban stays."

None of the Council members mentioned City Managers Johnson's language subjecting anyone attending a City meeting to be subject to immediate arrest without warning. 

The City Council will revisit City Manager Johnson's Proposed Rules at a later date.

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