Be careful what you say when you’re addressing City Council, you might get shut down or arrested.
Attention residents of Fort Myers, City Hall, has put a new rule in place for citizens who have issues they want to get off their chest.
If you plan to address City Council during non-public hearing comment periods, you will now only have three minutes instead of four minutes.
You are not allowed to use your three minutes to “slander, defame, disparage or smear individuals through ad hominem attacks.”
Personal attacks are not allowed.
You must fill out a card identifying what topic or topics you’d like to speak about, which has always been a standard procedure. But what’s new here is you are not allowed to stray off topic.
If you do decide to change the conversation, Mayor Randall Henderson or the City Attorney are allowed to stop you and ask that you stick to the topic you initially wanted to address.
If you break the rules, you run the risk of being arrested
The ordinance was passed unanimously on Nov. 20, 2017.
The decision came two weeks after political activist Anthony Thomas Jr. voiced his concerns about retiring Ward 5 Councilman Forrest Banks.
On Nov. 6, 2017, Thomas used his four minutes to remind City Council that Councilman Banks was accused of alleged sexual misconduct in 2007.
“I remembered four years ago, there were two white women who worked for the City of Fort Myers in the Board Office, Mr. Banks sexually harassed one of them,” Thomas said during the non-public hearing comment period.
Mayor Henderson and Councilman Banks both immediately denied the allegations.
“It’s not true, and nothing was ever, ever, ever happened about that. So it’s not true,” Mayor Henderson said while Thomas was trying to get his point across.
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Mayor Henderson apologized profusely to Councilman Banks for “Mr. Thomas’ behavior.” The Mayor then decided it was time to stop Thomas from negativity speaking out during City Council meetings.
“One thing I want to look into is when this gentleman, or excuse of a gentleman, comes to this podium, I want to start turning off the TV. There’s nothing that says we have to record his vile message,” Mayor Henderson said to Terry Cramer, who was the Acting City Attorney at the time.
Cramer looked to other City Councils to figure out how to bring order to the meetings and what he came up with is Resolution 2017-37.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns about Resolution 2017-37 or additional information about sexual misconduct in City Hall, we’d like to hear from you.
Send an e-mail to Stories@HelloSWFL.com