Marco Island wants to declare itself a Bill of Rights sanctuary city, following Collier (2024)

Marco Island City Council wants to follow Collier County as a "Bill of Rights sanctuary." Council members say they want to protect citizens from federal government mandates having to do with such issues as guns and personal information – mandates the city council might deem unconstitutional.

Collier County Board of Commissioners approved the designation for the county in August.

“It doesn’t apply to the city," Councilman Greg Folley said in an interview. "They were trailblazing.”

Collier was the first county in Florida to make such a declaration. Several counties have followed but Marco appears to the first city in the state set to take the stance, though some have declared themselves "second-amendment sanctuaries".

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Among them are freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly; the right to bear arms; protection against unreasonable search and seizure; and the right to a speedy and public trial.

"This legislation mirrors legislation passed by the county in August," Folley said.

The proposed ordinance would indicate a "hard stand" against federal government "co-opting," Folley said.

Under the ordinance, any mandate or law imposed by Congress or the president that Marco Island City Council or its residents decide is unconstitutional, the city won't enforce. And if the city decides to participate in a federal program a citizen believes violates their constitutional rights, that citizen may sue Marco Island through code enforcement rules or in Collier County Circuit Court.

After a two-hour discussion, City Council voted unanimously to move the ordinance to a second reading at the Feb. 5 meeting. Councilman Joe Rola was absent.

Why make this move now?

“I think there are all kinds of reasons why we should not be co-opted by the federal government,” Folley said before the council meeting. “We should put a marker out there that we won’t.”

He cited examples of some people in the federal government wanting to “take away our gun rights” and artificial intelligence being used to gather people’s personal information, which he sees as a violation of the Fourth Amendment regarding illegal search and seizure.

Folley earlier this month also presented, and the Council approved unanimously, a Health Freedom Bill of Rights ordinance.

City Manager Mike McNees and city attorney Alan Gabriel had issues with the ordinance, as did some council members. They had questions and concerns about who will interpret complaints that something is unconstitutional and how will the ordinance be enforced.

"There are many City employees who take an oath to among other things 'preserve, protect and defend' the Constitution of the United States of America," McNees wrote in a letter to City Council before the meeting. "This ordinance creates the very real possibility those employees would have to decide which allegiance is superior, creating an unwinnable situation: For a police officer in such a situation, they can side with the City, and be subject to civil suit or even prosecution for violating someone’s civil rights or federal law.

"This type of violation can also put their license to be a law enforcement officer, as issued by the State, in jeopardy," he wrote. "On the other hand, they could take the other position, in fear for their career, and be subject to civil liability as well as sanction by the City for violation of this ordinance. Would the City defend them from such a suit brought against an officer faithfully executing his or her duty? Fraught would be an understatement."

Councilman Rich Blonna said the ordinance needs more details.

It makes City Council the arbiters of any infringements but without guidelines, he said. "There are no guidelines for how to be judged and how it would play out."

Council Vice Chairman Erik Brechnitz expressed concerns about the City Council making constitutional interpretations. "I'm not a constitutional scholar. I’m certainly not qualified to determine it."

Councilwoman Becky Irwin said, "I’m in support of the thought behind it. … I don't know that this is the vehicle."

Chairman Jared Grifoni strongly agreed with Folley and the way the ordinance is written, saying it already had been vetted and approved by Collier County commissioners.

"We as a local government are not going to be forced to enforce an illegal act – with city funds," Grifoni said. "We know that the rights, our rights, are not determined by the government and that includes the courts. They are given to us by our Creator."

McNees called the ordinance "classic government overreach, something that this council has been concerned about."

He said reading the state constitution and the city charter, which reflects that constitution, "I have a hard time understanding" how interpreting the U.S. Constitution is the council's job.

"We are going to be aggressive in defending out rights," Folley said.

Councilman Darrin Palumbo said he initially thought the ordinance was merely a symbolic gesture.

"I now think it might be the most important thing I vote on in four years," he said. "I think this is the most important thing that I believe we have been speaking about and I want to get it right."

In its vote to move the issue forward to a second reading, council instructed Folley to work with the city attorney and McNees to "tweak" the language and bring it back for further discussion.

With Constitutional rights in mind, City Council agreed to join a lawsuit opposing a state law requiring added financial disclosures by elected officials.

Form 6 opposition for $10,000

City Council voted 5-1 to join a lawsuit challenging Form 6 financial disclosure requirement as unconstitutional and invalid and requesting a temporary injunction. City Attorney Gabriel's law firm Weiss-Serota is managing the lawsuit and has 12 cities committed, Gabriel said.

Each city must commit $10,000 toward the case to fight the financial disclosure requirement that starts July 1.

A change to the Ethics Commission laws that went into effect Jan. 1 requires city and municipal elected officials to fill out something calledForm 6, the same disclosure form that state and county elected officials have had to fill out for years.

Form 6, "Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests," isone of the formselected officials in Florida must fill out and occasionally renew. It is intended to add transparency to offices that make spending decisions, sometimes up to millions or billions in taxpayer money. It requires more details about assets and the net worth of candidates.

"I don’t feel like my net worth is anyone’s business except me or my wife. I think it’s unconstitutional," Brechnitz said. "I think my rights are being violated."

Palumbo said he supports the lawsuit but "I have a little issue with who is going to pay for it. … The citizens didn’t cause this." And some citizens want to see the information, he said.

Grifoni, who voted against the motion, said he doesn't like the timing by the state Legislature but also it won't affect him because he can't run for City Council again.

More: Collier Commission changes course, declaring the county as a 'Bill of Rights sanctuary'

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Marco Island declares itself Bill of Rights sanctuary city

As a legal expert with a deep understanding of constitutional matters, I find the recent developments in Marco Island fascinating and worth delving into. The Marco Island City Council's decision to declare itself a "Bill of Rights sanctuary" mirrors a trend initiated by Collier County in Florida. The essence of this movement lies in the Council's desire to protect its citizens from perceived federal government mandates that may infringe upon constitutional rights, such as those related to guns and personal information.

The Bill of Rights, comprising the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution, encapsulates fundamental freedoms and protections. It includes the freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, the right to bear arms, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to a speedy and public trial. The proposed ordinance by the Marco Island City Council reflects a firm stance against what they perceive as federal government overreach.

The ordinance outlines that any mandate or law imposed by Congress or the president, deemed unconstitutional by the City Council or its residents, will not be enforced. Additionally, citizens are granted the right to sue the city if they believe participation in a federal program violates their constitutional rights.

The decision to move forward with this ordinance was not unanimous, and concerns were raised about the potential challenges in enforcing it. City Manager Mike McNees and City Attorney Alan Gabriel, along with some council members, expressed reservations about the lack of clarity on who would interpret complaints of unconstitutionality and how the ordinance would be enforced. There were also concerns about city employees, especially those in law enforcement, facing difficult decisions and potential legal consequences.

In a related move, the City Council voted to join a lawsuit opposing a state law requiring additional financial disclosures by elected officials. This move, with a 5-1 vote, reflects the Council's objection to what they perceive as an unconstitutional requirement for elected officials to disclose detailed financial information.

The article also highlights the diversity of opinions within the Council regarding the ordinance, with some members expressing support for the underlying principles but seeking more clarity and guidelines. This complex situation underscores the challenges of balancing local autonomy, constitutional interpretations, and the practical implementation of such ordinances.

As the City Council proceeds to a second reading of the ordinance, it will be interesting to observe how they address concerns raised by city officials and whether adjustments are made to enhance clarity and enforceability.

Marco Island wants to declare itself a Bill of Rights sanctuary city, following Collier (2024)

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