McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

Want to impact your community? Many of McIntosh's citizen boards have open seats and a council at a loss as to how to fill them.

Light-up McIntosh December 15

Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.

6.29.06 -- Editorial: The Nazi Ordinance, a footnote

At the June 22 meeting, Casey Girardin, owner of Sportsman's Cove, brought her attorney Sam Mutch. For the last month or so, when Casey attempted to address the council during public meetings, she was shot down by different council members and told she is not allowed to address them unless her lawyer is present.

Now, I am pretty sure, this raises some interesting questions regarding the Sunshine law. To take comments from everyone else but single one person out without knowing what that person is going to say and prohibit him or her from addressing elected officials without employing an attorney ... it's sketchy, at least. It's feasibly limiting her access to her government. Florida's public meeting laws are designed to prevent this kind of action on the part of public officials.

But, in some ways, the council and Casey have done the town's residents a favor by making her bring her attorney to last meeting. Because she employed an attorney and brought him to the meeting, he was a vocal, adamant voice against the proposed ordinance regarding hazardous buildings that was would have allowed an official working for the Land Planning Agency to enter buildings for administrative inspections.

It's what I think of as the Nazi Ordinance.

The sticky-wicket portion of proposed ordinance (for posterity):

"9.4.1 - Right of Entry: The Land Development Code Administrator shall enforce the provisions of this Chaper, as such Land Development Code Administrator, or their duly authorized representative upon may enter any building, structure, dwelling, apartment, apartment house, or premises, during all reasonable hours to make an inspection or enforce any of the provisions of this Article. If an owner, operator or other occupant of a building, structure or premises refuses to permit the enforcing official to enter and make inspections, the official is authorized to petition the court for an administrative warrant to allow entry and inspection."

When the ordinance finally came up, it was 9:30 p.m. The crowd had slimmed down somewhat from the original 40 or so people.

I was heartened to hear Jim Strange speak out against the forced entry nature of this ordinance. He said he envisioned inspecting hazardous buildings and property as checking for misquito nests and the like. The council seemed to be moving toward tabling this ordinance. Tabling would be fine for the moment but the problem with tabling an ordinance like this is that it can always come back up later.

It was Mutch who pushed for a defeat of the proposed law.

I don't think that anyone realized they could ask for a defeat of an ordinance in a council meeting. I honestly don't think the council would have defeated this ordinance if Casey's lawyer hadn't pushed them to do it. I believe they would have tabled it to another time when there were fewer members of the public present. When Mutch asked Danaya Wright to defeat the ordinance, he pointed out that residents had been waiting there for more than three hours to tell the council what they thought and the council should listen to its constituents.

Granted, Mutch went a little bit too far at the end of the meeting. We all could see that action got heated. When he was addressing the council and Wright, Mutch was so animated by the end that it seemed to have figuratively moved three rows forward in his anger even though his feet remained planted in the last row.

But in many ways, I can't blame him.

He was shaking the ordinances and speaking to how unconstitutional they were. He was admonishing Wright for being an officer of the court and even considering some of these ordinances. He said she smirked at him. She said he was grandstanding. She does have a habit of appearing a wee bit smug at times. And he probably *was* grandstanding -- not that I know definitively either way.

I saw Jim Strange watch Mutch and shake his head at the lawyer when he spoke more than once. Any way around it, I am sure the council members didn't like what Mutch was telling them.

I wondered during Mutch's last tirade if he was trying to get Wright to have the deputy toss him. I can' t think what he would gain from it.

But when I got to thinking about it, I understood.

See, Wright is a law professor. She's an expert in land planning law. She's also the chair of the UF faculty senate. She's a UF trustee. When I think of all of those things, and I think that she purposely told the town clerk not to turn on a tape recorder in a five hour workshop meeting in February resulting in keeping her constituents from knowing what their elected officials were saying about them and planning, I have been angry. I have been very angry. I sat in that February meeting and I heard all of those things the council members said and planned but I never knew until the next week that people in town were asked not to come.

I have lost sleep over it. I have called professors. I have called Sunshine law experts. I have talked to editors. And Mutch's outburst at Wright as an officer of the court who did not immediately defeat an ordinance that was clearly -- in his words -- unconstitutional, a local law that would allow forced entry into homes ... well, I don't blame him for being angry.

I have been angry, too. I expected better.

I am glad that the council had the sense to unanimously defeat the Nazi ordinance. Granted, all this ordinance is now is a footnote, thankfully. But it's also a vital lesson that we have to watch carefully the laws crafted in this community.

It concerns me, still, that when it was on the table for discussion, Code Enforcement Officer Art Davis seemed to think it was completely reasonable and that if anyone refused him entry, he could simply obtain within two hours county paperwork and gain access, anyway. Scary.

But I think what's more frightening is that the citizen board members who drafted this ordinance are still on a committee writing codes.

posted by Cher @ 2:06 PM,

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Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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