August 19, 2016 – Daytona Beach News Journal
by Mark Harper
The DeBary City Council has “no legal authority” to keep the public out of a hearing where it will decide whether to remove the mayor from office, said the president of the First Amendment Foundation.
A memo written by interim City Manager Ron McLemore and posted to the city website states no one will be allowed in the hearing — scheduled for Wednesday in council chambers at City Hall — “other than persons essential to the hearing, i.e. city elected officials, attorneys, witnesses, appropriate city staff and those members of the public and others who have signed up to speak.”
But the president of the the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the public’s constitutional right to open government, said McLemore has illegally prohibited the public from attending the meeting.
“If he’s worried about security, then he needs to make sure there are plenty of law enforcement officers on hand,” Barbara Petersen said.
“They can heighten security by having people open their purses,” she said. “He can hold the meeting at a facility with a metal detector. He can get more law enforcement. He can borrow that woman from Pensacola who (hit a gunman) with a purse if he wants to … but he can’t close the meeting.”
Petersen said no matter the intention, there is nothing written in the law or constitution that allows for a closed meeting when a council is voting to remove its mayor.
“I understand what (McLemore) wants to do,” she said, “but he just can’t do it.” [READ MORE]