HIGH SPRINGS –Mayor Dean Davis wants to restrict public comments and ban filming at commission meetings. That’s according to an email Davis sent Feb. 22 asking City Manager Jeri Langman to pass his sentiments on to the other three commissioners.
“I feel that citizen input should be only for items not on the agenda,” Davis wrote in his email to Langman. “We have tried to allow input during the agenda items, but it has turned into a time to bash all decisions made by the commission, and city manager,” he said.
Davis added that allowing public input has lengthened meetings and, “…is certainly not fostering civility nor open discussion.”
The mayor seems to admit that many of the comments come from people who disagree with actions of the commission, writing, “I have found much of the input to be a time to vent the obvious contempt for the present commission and city manager.”
Davis goes on to take aim at media coverage of meetings. “The unnecessarily negative blogs by people that put their spin on it has raised the question of responsible journalism in my mind.”
But Davis doesn’t stop with public comments and media coverage. In the email, he stated his intentions of putting an end to people filming the meetings.
“I will request that all private filming during commission meetings be prohibited,” he wrote, suggesting that he obtained legal opinions confirming that such a ban could be implemented. He said his reason for seeking the filming prohibition was his concern that the filming was disrupting the meeting and causing conversation in the audience.
He wrote that the filming is “Being used to further a political agenda that is not compatible with the will of the commission.” Davis added, “Much of the information being put out as fact is in reality fiction.”
In an email response to Davis, City Manager Langman stated that it is the opinion of the Florida Attorney General that the City cannot ban “videoing or recording” of the meetings.
She also addressed Davis’ suggestion that citizen comments only be permitted on items not on the agenda. Langman wrote, “This is something that was addressed during a meeting and there was a consensus to allow public comment after each agenda item both new and old business.”
Langman said eliminating public comments is a matter that should be discussed and decided by a majority of the commission before it is changed again. As a means of addressing some of Davis’ concerns, Langman recommended that he remind speakers to stay on topic when addressing the commission.
When contacted by Alachua County Today for further clarification about why he wanted public input eliminated and filming banned, Davis said he had no comment.
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