Don’t take my picture! HAVE THIS MAN REMOVED! (This is “Government in the Sunshine”?)

Today, in the course of my investigations into the functions of the City of St. Petersburg government, I decided to sit in on a publicly advertised meeting being televised live on the City’s Television station WSPF.   I GOT THROWN OUT OF THE MEETING FOR ATTEMPTING TO RECORD IT ON A CELL PHONE VIDEO! The meeting was the “Special Magistrate” for the code enforcement Board. This board ensures that citizens comply with the vast numbers of codes and rules governing our homes and businesses. They assess fines and liens for those who don’t comply – a revenues source for the city.

As I entered the room, I noticed that there were three people in there.  The clerk at the front reading the list of fines and liens, a city staffer and the “Special Magistrate” Dorthea Beane.  I was taken by the empty room and the vast agenda (44 pages with 248 items, many with multiple fines). The clerk would read a number and the magistrate would respond and the list would roll on and on. 

Special Magistrate Dorthea Beane: “What are you doing”?
“You May not record without my permission”.  “Throw this man out”!
(This is the You Tube video of the actual footage I took before stopping at her request. The clicking sounds you hear were my keyboard sliding or manipulation of the camera zoom button.  They were not audible to the Magistrate or anyone else.)
If video not showing, please look at:

I decided to use my cell phone camera to take a video of our government “in action”.  I quietly took a video for later review and possible publication on the (I said nothing and made no noise).  The magistrate grew upset quickly and voluntarily stopped her own proceeding to ask me what I was doing.  I advised I was an interested citizen just trying to learn what was happening in our city. She advised me that I needed her permission to record anything.  Now, Magistrate Beane is clearly an intelligent woman of significant wisdom and experience.  She may be volunteering her time (but I doubt it).  However, I found it odd that a person on live television in the middle of a government-created public hearing, in a public building, doing public business would make the assertion that an ordinary citizen could not record the proceedings on a cell phone video.  She asked me if I understood I could not take her picture. I advised I would take it under advisement but it seemed that she didn’t have a strong legal basis to make such a claim.  She grew rather angry and asked for security to escort me from the room and stopped the proceeding until that could occur. I advised her that she should be ashamed of herself for abusing her authority and not living by the rule of law – but the rule of man.  (There were no signs relating to recording video that were obvious to me and a question has been submitted to the city to clarify this issue.)

The video of the encounter will be posted as soon as it shows up on the City website for the meeting that occurred on 9/27/2011 at a time of about 10:30 a.m.                

Now, any taxpaying citizen of St. Petersburg may ask:

  • Just who do these people work for? 
  • Is it not acceptable to have a picture or video taken of a public official in a public proceeding? 
  • Is it appropriate to abuse your power and have a citizen thrown out of a meeting for refusing to be submissive? 

I am sure that under any other circumstances, I would be delighted to make the acquaintance of  Madam Beane. However, today was not one of those days.

A complaint has been filed with the city regarding her behavior.


4 Replies:

  1. Lynne

    Well, it sounds to me that this lady should know better. I just read about an appellate case in federal court (1st District)which dealt with videotaping public officials in public places. This court opinion was issued very recently, August 27, 2011.

    The court wrote in part:

    “The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity]. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

    GLIK v. CUNNIFFE, Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit , August 27, 2011

    As you see from what this federal court of appeals stated, it is fine to videotape public officers in public places. I know we are in the 11th Circuit, so I am not sure if the law is the same here.

    I am very happy to learn this fellow in this case had the guts to take it all the way up to the appellate level.
    I don’t think this will be the end of it– I do believe this case will likely make it to the US Supreme Court.

  2. Don Dean

    The citizens put her there, we will make sure she’s not put back in that position, great job keeping everyone informed, I have had the displeasure of watching these meetings, sometimes their decisions are valid, but more often than not they are stupid in their decisions, and need to realize what the majority of people are going through in these bad financial times, and understand that fining them daily is not the solution, have they ever thought of offering or suggesting to some of these people, a way to get out of their current situation, I never heard one offer help, any 1st grader can read out of a code book and fine people, shouldn’t they try to help those that are willing to accept their help, just a thought.

  3. Kristin

    I just heard about you on The Glenn Beck Radio Program. Please set up a facebook page so on non-twitterers can follow you! Great stuff… Thanks so much for your work.

  4. anne

    I too just heard you on the Glenn Beck radio show. I live in St pete and am happy to find this website. I will be following you and hopefully getting more involved. God Bless you

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