by Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Austin Fuller
November 17, 2016
A proposed ordinance that could have limited public officials’ criticisms and disrespectful language was squashed Thursday evening, with one commissioner calling for the city attorney’s resignation.
None of the commissioners supported the ordinance at a Thursday workshop, and Commissioner Brian Soukup, who has had several issues with top staff in recent months, called for City Attorney Becky Vose’s resignation over the matter.
“I expect her resignation tomorrow,” he said. “I know why this is here. They might as well call it the Soukup ordinance.”
Vose, who does not plan to resign, said Commissioner Heidi Herzberg had asked her to come up with an anti-bullying ordinance.
Also, Commissioner Mitch Honaker had asked for a civility policy, but said he did not want an ordinance.
“I am livid,” he said. “Throw that ordinance away.”
Meanwhile, Herzberg, who was attending a conference and could not make the meeting, told The News-Journal she had asked for an anti-bullying policy in September and was not behind the civility ordinance.
“You can’t stifle people’s right to free speech,” she said.
She had also emailed Vose and top staffers on Wednesday that she did “not support moving this forward, least of all without full commission attendance/input.”
Vose told the commission she drafts an ordinance when any commissioner asks — a policy the commission on Thursday gave direction to no longer do.
“Personally, I think that it’s better if we as a group decided what is it that we want as far as ordinances to give you direction,” newly elected Commissioner Christopher Alcantara said.
Earlier Thursday, the proposed law got a thumbs-down from a constitutional expert and a civil-liberties advocate.
Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, a professor at the University of Florida who teaches constitutional law, said the ordinance would have both First Amendment and due process problems.
She warned the ordinance could become a tool for censorship and that it “is so subjective that it would lend itself to abuse by the people enforcing it to suppress speech with which they disagree.”
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said the city’s goals appear to be worthy, but the ordinance as proposed is problematic.
“That is something for the voters to decide, whether that person is fit for office or not,” he said. “I think the City Commission desperately needs good legal advice to go back to the drawing board on this.”
Vose defended the ordinance draft…
…”There’s nothing legally wrong with it,” Vose said. “I could defend it very easily in court.” [READ MORE]