In her latest failure as a legal adviser to the City of St Augustine board of city commissioners, City Attorney Isabelle C. Lopez was silent during a vote called by Vice Mayor Todd Neville to move forward with plans to “contextualize” the city’s 1879 Confederate Soldiers Memorial.
The recommendation of City Manager John Regan’s handpicked “Confederate Memorial Contextualization Advisory Committee”, that includes approval to construct new plaques of various materials to be attached to the 139-year-old historic artifact, likely violates the city’s own ordinance, Sec. 22-9(c). Lopez could have intervened and cautioned the commissioners about the conflicting ordinance, but she allowed the motion to proceed. The motion was seconded by Leanna Freeman who is also a local attorney serving her third term on the commission. Freeman also failed to raise any legal question.
The section of the Code of Ordinances of the City of St Augustine Municipal Code reads:
Sec. 22-9. – Placement of monuments, plaques and memorials on city property.
It shall be unlawful for any person to place a plaque, memorial or monument on any city right-of-way or city owned property, except in conformity with the following requirements:
(c) Review by city manager. The city manager will review the application and provide his recommendation to the city commission as to the suitability of placement of the plaque, memorial or monument. No plaque, monument or memorial is to be recommended to the city commission by the city manager for placement in the City Commons otherwise known as Plaza de la Constitucion, unless the plaque, monument or memorial commemorates a significant activity or event which occurred prior to February 22, 1821 or unless the plaque, monument or memorial commemorates the service to the city of citizens leading and participating in the civil rights movement in St. Augustine. Absent unusual circumstances, which shall be set forth in the recommendation, any other recommendation shall be for placement of a plaque, meeting uniform standards promulgated by the city manager, on the interior loggia columns of the Alcazar Hotel Building. (emphasis added)
The Ladies Memorial Association of Saint Augustine was founded in September of 1866, just eighteen months after the end of the war while the city was still under federal military control. The monument, which was originally installed on the grounds of the Catholic Diocese of Florida, was reinstalled in it’s current location in 1879.
As the ordinance stands today, the proposed plaques, which commemorate an event that occurred after February 22, 1821, would be in direct violation of the ordinance if installed in the City Commons — otherwise known as Plaza de la Constitucion.
It appears, after reading the ordinance, the only legal placement of a plaque commemorating an activity or event that occurred after February 22, 1821, must be on the interior loggia columns of the Alcazar Hotel Building. It must also meet uniform standards promulgated by the city manager.
A group of local residents is discussing a lawsuit to enjoin the city from taking any action on the 4-1 split vote Monday evening.