Editorial: It’s against the law!


Editorial: It’s against the law!

Michael Gold, Managing Editor
St Augustine, FL

I love it when I hear people proclaim that some action or another is “against the law” — especially when they have no legal training, gullible followers buy into it, and, of course, on investigation, the action was not against the law at all.

Case in point: At the recent meeting of the St Johns County Board of Commissioners held March 18, 2014, during a 27-minute ambush of sitting Commissioner Bill McClure, re-election candidate and current chairman Jay Morris asked, “We can’t campaign from our office, can we?”

All of a sudden, you would have thought that the Levin College of Law at UF had just released its 2014 graduating class. With smug authoritarian gestures, tone of voice and command of jurisprudence, Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson, Commissioner Rachael Bennett and Commissioner Sanchez, all chimed in that not only can there not be any “campaigning” in the commissioner’s individual offices, such activity anywhere in the building “is against the law”.

Morris has accused his political opponent, Dan Abel, of being brought into Commissioner McClure’s office to further his “campaign”. McClure has denied that, as has Dan Abel when directly asked after the meeting. Morris went on to say that Abel told him at a meeting of the Republican Executive Committee, that McClure had recruited him, and that he had “verified” that as recently as Friday. Abel reiterated for Historic City News that he never made any such accusation against Commissioner McClure.

There is a Florida law, (Section 104.271, F.S.), that says that a candidate may not, with actual malice; make any false statement about an opposing candidate. When Morris says during the hostilities that ensued, that he has taken Abel’s presence in McClure’s office “personally”, you are heading into a “malicious” neighborhood.

“I do take it personal when you’re out soliciting someone to run against me,” Morris admitted, referring to his opposing candidate. “To bring him into the office, right next to my office, and I had left, door is wide open, I don’t lock the door, and to have him with the media guy, for whatever reason I can’t do anything right with, yah, I do take that personally — I truly do.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are advised that there is not a Florida law that prohibits “campaigning” in the County Administration Building by candidates.

There are prohibitions against using county employees on your campaign during regular work hours, but a careful reading of “the law”, as distributed to all candidates by the Supervisor of Elections, and as indicated in correspondence on this topic from both the Supervisor and the County Attorney, the most closely related prohibition bars candidates from soliciting or taking campaign contributions in a government-owned building (Section 106.15(4), F.S.).

But, hey, what do I know? I’m not a lawyer, I’m an “outsider”.

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