14 July 2023
The Honorable John Reese and Jon Williams Mayor and City Manager of Winter Garden 300 W Plant Street
Winter Garden, Florida 32789
Re: Sunshine Laws and Reporter’s rights
Dear Mayor Reese and City Manager Williams,
The First Amendment Foundation was founded nearly four decades ago to protect and advance the principles and laws that guarantee open government and public records access in Florida. We also protect and advance the freedoms and rights established under the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution, including the workings of a free press.
This is the reason we are writing to you. We have learned that on February 9, 2023, Winter Garden unanimously passed Resolution 23-02, which includes “Rules of Conduct for the Media.” As we understand the resolution and how it functions:
- Media may not “disrupt” a
- The mayor/commissioner, commissioners, other city officials should not be followed, heckled, harassed before, during or after city meetings to request interviews, to obtain comments or respond to questions.
- Media are not to use public comments for media They can speak to a public information officer to get questions answered.
- Other than the city manager, there is no designated public information officer.
- Repeated disruptive behavior or harassment may result in the journalist being prohibited from attending meetings as a “cooling down” period. Another reporter can go in their stead.