I attended the DeBary Council meeting on September 3, 2015. Much of the meeting involved a discussion of Item 10 – Part 3 titled: ” Discussion of Possible Action on Mayor’s Behavior. ”
I spoke on this topic, but I addressed only the issue of free speech. I presented my view’s on the Public’s right of free speech. My views are essentially a summary of what state courts and federal courts have found to be public standards for speech before public councils on the city, county, state, and federal levels. In my view, and almost exactly what courts have stated, is that there are only three valid reasons to limit or curtail a citizen’s right of free speech. The reasons are: 1) SHOUTING – If a citizen shouts or screams at a governmental body, he/she has given up their right to speak; 2) CURSING – If a citizen uses profane or vulgar language, his/her right to speak may be curtailed; and 3) THREATS- If any citizen threatens violence toward anyone, then the right to speak should be removed.
Re-stated, shouting, cursing, or threatening are the only valid reasons to limit responsible free speech. It is clearly not valid to limit public participation to individuals who agree with a council member or agree with the majority of the council members.
A number of residents also addressed the Council about their perceived shortcomings of Mayor Johnson. I found their responses to be eloquent and very clear. However, since I do not read social media websites very often, I was not aware of comments attributed to Mr. Johnson.
Finally council members also addressed some areas of concern regarding Mr. Johnson’s comments and behavior. As a DeBary resident, I found the comments made by councilmembers Rick Dwyer, Mike Brady, and Ms. Handy-Peters to be extremely thoughtful, extremely wise, extremely well reasoned, and extremely compassionate ! Clearly these three councilmembers were attempting to heal a divided and dysfunctional council.
I sincerely wish Mayor Johnson well and will continue to support his right of free speech. However, I hope that Mayor Johnson will ponder the suggestions from the councilmembers. Since Mr. Johnson holds the elected office of mayor, it seems like a very wise course for Mayor Johnson to be extremely cautious when posting comments on the social media websites. Also, it seems wise for Mayor Johnson to include, not exclude, other council members when presenting his agenda. After all, it takes at least three votes to pass any motion.
R. Van Conoley