I was disappointed, but not surprised, that City Council candidate Larry Sacher filed an ethics complaint against Council Chairman Larry Magel. On the other hand, I was shocked when Mr. Sacher used the last City Council meeting as a political forum to trumpet his complaint. That was neither the time nor the place for a political attack. Mr. Sacher is wrong as a matter of law and as a matter of personal conduct, in my opinion.
The nature of the complaint itself is a matter even beyond the way this attack is being conducted. As a lawyer I carefully analyzed the Florida Constitution, particularly sections 112.313 (6) relating to standards of conduct for public officials and 104.31 (c) (4) relating to interfering with or coercing the political process and use of official authority or position. Neither of these sections would support an ethics violation by Mr. Magel in my judgment. To view it otherwise would distort the meaning of free speech.
The facts are not disputed: Mr. Magel wrote a letter to condominium owners expressing his views on campaign issues, and stating which candidates supported the positions he had taken on those issues. At no time did Mr. Magel use city property; city supplies or the work of city employees to produced or transmit his letter. He made his views known as a private citizen, and there is nothing wrong about a reference to his elected position.
Politics is a messy business. It simply should not result in unjustified attacks and accusations predicated on personal prejudice. Most important, let us be civil enough to follow the principles of the United States Constitution on our fundamental right of free speech. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Magel, it is not right to impinge on his right of free expression.