Are 1st Amendment Rights At Risk in Port Orange?
I am a citizen activist and I currently volunteer on the Eastport CRA and the A&B Advisory Board.
I hold strong opinions on both Eastport and the City’s finances and in addition to lobbying support for my positions in Council meetings and on the blogs I do so also in active email correspondence that may be seen by others including Eastport CRA and A&B members. It may reasonably be expected that many of the issues on which I lobby will be discussed by those boards.
It is also conceivable that a member of the public might file a public records request for all of an activists correspondence alleging that he or she failed to comply fully with City records retention policy requirements exceeding those required by State statute.
What bright line criteria will City policy employ to clearly define specific record retention requirements that go beyond those mandated by Florida statute, so as to not stifle, or otherwise encroach on activists free exercise of their 1st Amendment rights ?.
The current Manager has destroyed public confidence in the ethical neutrality demanded of his office by applying a double standard in his treatment of volunteer board members, and by actively soliciting a candidate to run against an incumbent councilman.
While I believe that it is perfectly acceptable for the current manager (or any manager) to lash out against tormentors who feel it necessary to criticize his management results, that rebuttal must be confined to the issue at hand. Sadly as criticism has mounted and his offered defenses are seen with less and less credibility he has reached for political defenses, and in one short year has politicized his office in a way the former Manager had not after 28 years on the job.
What other conclusion can be drawn from his public and embarrassing invite to one Board member critical of his performance to report yet another member for a possible ethics violation that Kisela felt was inferred, AND yet maintain a golden silence when presented with a far more accusatory e-mail from a supportive board member referencing possible Sunshine violations by the City, Council and staff. (see: http://18.104.22.168/shame/ )
The end result of the Manager’s efforts over the past month, whether it was his intention or not has been a noticeable decline in political discourse critical of his operation. The last thing we need to do is give him greater control over citizen activists criticism through their volunteer efforts on advisory boards.
Who will be tasked with investigating and enforcing City requirements exceeding those mandated by State statute ?.
What will preclude beleaguered officials from silencing critics with threats of concocted Sunshine concern investigations that will serve to dissuade Activists from freely exercising their 1st Amendment right to criticize government and its officials ?.
I fear the end result of any decision on the part of the City to mandate Sunshine requirements beyond those mandated by statute may well have the practical effect of dissuading citizen activists from serving on volunteer boards, And would hope further action on this matter be held in abeyance until after the joint meeting with the 1st Amendment panel during which I suspect this matter will be discussed at length.
Ted Noftall 8:57 AM
to Bob, Margaret, Bob, Dennis, don, Drew
I commend your decision to address the crisis in government Manager Kisela has precipitated by exceeding his authority in issuing new “records retention policy” that not only encroaches in an area that is the clear purview of Council, but imposes requirements beyond what are required by State statute.
My advice would be reject the urge to start imposing requirements beyond those mandated by statute as the City attorney attempts to un-do the Manager’s thoughtlessness by returning an ordinance for Council’s approval, AND CONSIDER that there is a reason why State statute does not go any further than it does regarding Sunshine and Public Records.
If you find a compelling reason to disregard that advise then I would ask that 1st Amendment and Enforcement concerns be fully considered and fully addressed.