Tuesday, September 29, 2015


1. St. Augustine City Commissioner TODD DAVID NEVILLE caused St. Augustine City Commissioner ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ to issue a demand for "retraction" on September 8, 2015 to Michael Gold and Historic City News, a website.
2. That demand was predicated upon having an "opinion" from the Ethics Commission.
3. No such opinion has ever issued by the Commission.
4. Emboldened and empowered by the false claim of a non-existent Ethics Commission "opinion," NEVILLE proceeded to demand that the City Commission authorize, join and fund his private lawsuit for "defamation," with no public benefit, doing so openly and notoriously in Commissioner comments at the September 14, 2015 City Commission meeting. www.cosatv.com
5. NEVILLE caused Ms. LOPEZ to perform research and consume official time and resources on his private libel lawsuit.
6. Ms. Lopez concluded NEVILLE's demand was improper as a violation of the First Amendment, Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 10 and City Charter Section 4.19, in a memo that was dated (possibly backdated) September 25, 2015.
7. On September 28, 2015 at the St. Augustine City Commission meeting, NEVILLE withdrew his demand.
8. NEVILLE did not apologize for the violation of First Amendment rights and waste of City official time, or the unethical conduct of seeking to make his private grievance a matter of public financial investment.
9. NEVILLE did not reimburse, or offer to reimburse, the City of St. Augustine for misusing official time for a matter that the City Attorney rightly concluded was "personal" to him, and not City business, in violation of state ethics laws, the First Amendment, Article VII, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution and Florida Statute 768.295, "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) prohibited."

City of St. Augustine

TO: Mayor and City Commissioners

DATE: September 25, 2015

RE: Information regarding defamation and City expenses.
• Description of Defamation
Defamation is an intentional false communication that injures another’s reputation or good name. Defamation can either be written (known as libel) or verbal (known as slander). Defamation is not a constitutionally protected activity, in contrast to freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

• Burden of Proof and Standard of Proof
In a lawsuit claiming defamation of a public official, the plaintiff (the public official) has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the defamatory statement was (1) a statement of fact, (2) which was false, and (3) made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This is a very high burden. The defamatory words must be read in the context of the entire publication and in light of what a reasonable person would have understood it to mean. Opinion, criticism, rhetorical hyperbole or vigorous epithet (a descriptive word used to characterize someone) is not in itself defamation. New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964); Coleman v. Collins, 384 So.2d 229 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980); Zorc v. Jordan, 765 So.2d 768 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000).

• Expenditure of City Funds
Section 10 of Article VII of the Florida Constitution prohibits the City from giving, lending or using its taxing power or credit to aid any person. Chapter 166.021, Florida Statutes, states that it is the intent of the state legislature to extend to municipalities the exercise of powers for “municipal governmental, corporate or proprietary purposes.” In practical terms this has been interpreted to mean that public funds cannot be expended unless it is for a municipal public purpose. Individuals may receive some incidental benefit, but the primary purpose of the undertaking must be for a public purpose. Poe v. Hillsborough County, 695 So. 2d 672, 676-77 (Fla. 1997); N. Palm Beach County Water Control Dist. v. State, 604 So. 2d 440, 442 (Fla. 1992); Orange County Indep. Dev. Auth. v. State, 427 So. 2d 174 (Fla. 1983); O'Neill v. Burns, 198 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 1967); State v. North Miami, 59 So.2d 779, 785 (Fla.1952). Defamation, by its very nature, is a personal tort, or wrong, against the good reputation of another individual. In a lawsuit for defamation, the plaintiff would not be the City of St. Augustine, but the individual who is claiming to have suffered the damage to his reputation. If the lawsuit was successful, the judgment for damages would be paid to that individual. Pursuant to section 4.19 of the City Charter, the City Attorney shall act as legal advisor to the municipality and all of its officers in matters relating to their official duties, however, the City Attorney can only prosecute and defend lawsuits, “in which the city is a party.” It is estimated that outside attorney’s fees for taking the case through to jury trial would be approximately $55,000.00.

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