I obtained the video today from the City of St. Petersburg of Special Magistrate Dorthea Beane having me ejected for taking a cell phone video of the proceedings of her meeting. I will offer this in the interest of peace. I watched Dorthea Beane in action and she is a very intelligent and compassionate person. I have learned she is volunteering her time to do the difficult work of helping people comply with the thousands of codes the city imposes on home owners. The fault in the system is in the number of codes – she appears to be an even handed adjudicator of these claims on a very superficial review of the proceedings she ran that day. But she is still wrong and in this instance abused her authority.
Dorthea Beane made a mistake in refusing to allow a citizen to use a cell phone to take a video of the proceedings. These proceedings are organized under the sunshine law. This particular proceeding was being televised live on city station WSPF. Any citizen can download the video of these proceedings. I happened to be personally present and chose to take my own video. According to an attorney for another local government in Florida (Brevard County), such unobtrusive videotaping must be allowed for special magistrates and others conducting public business.
“A rule or policy which prohibits the unobtrusive video recording of a public meeting is impermissible under Florida’s Sunshine Law.”
So a complaint has been filed with the city. The City has been asked to clarify their position on this since it has ramifications for all citizens who would seek to record public government proceedings, government officials conducting official business and public safety officers such a police and firefighters engaged in their duties. Citizens must be allowed to ensure transparency and accountability of their government and government officials. Any attempt by a public official to prevent this vital first amendment right violates existing law, the constitution of the United States, moral behavior and natural law.
Special Magistrate Beane (at about 1:05 minutes): “Sir, what are you doing”?
Dr. David McKalip: “Taking a video.”
Beane: “Of what?”
McKalip: “The Proceedings. I’m just an average citizen wanting to learn more about what is going on.”
Beane: “I’m glad you’re here sir, but when you take a picture of me, you need to ask my permission first.”
McKalip: “I am sure a court would disagree with you on that, but if you don’t want me to take any more pictures, I will think about it”.
Beane: “I’m telling you you won’t take any more pictures of me without my permission! Do you understand sir?”
McKalip: “No, no ma’am I do not understand…(inaudible)”
Beane: “Well, I have made myself very clear, you are welcome to be here….”
McKalip: “I don’t think you have any basis in law to make any such assertion. However I’ve heard what you’ve said. You’re in a public hearing for goodness sake, on television, of course I can take your picture. Get some common sense! ”
Beane: “Have this man removed, right now. Call the guards, have him removed.”
McKalip: “ What’s your position here? Are you a judge?”
Beane: (Guard arrives) : “Please remove this man”.
McKalip (while being escorted out by guard): “You should be ashamed of yourself Ma’am. You call yourself a person of the law? You are an abusive authority figure!”.