Collier County commissioners voted unanimously to have the County Attorney advertise and bring back for a public hearing the proposed Collier County Health Freedom Bill of Rights Ordinance at their Mar. 28 meeting. After a lengthy discussion, they also deferred a vote on the proposed Collier County Health Care Freedom Resolution pending a redrafting.
For background, see my Mar. 24 post, A Proposed Health Freedom Bill of Rights Ordinance.
While not officially announced, both items will likely be on the agenda for the next BCC meeting scheduled for Apr. 11.
Several local news and other sites published about the meeting (see In the News, below). So in this post, I will share some additional things I learned from watching the 3-1/2 hour video recording of the meeting.
In the News
The day before the meeting, an Orange County, CA-based public relations agency issued this press release:
- Covid Tyranny Task Force recommends adoption of Collier County Health Freedom Bill of Rights & Public Hearing, 3/27/23
Reporters from Gulfshore Business, the Naples Daily News, and WINK News wrote about the meeting:
- Jolene Esperto, WINK News: Push to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Collier County, 3/28/23
- Samantha Roestler, Gulfshore Business: Collier County considers ordinance limiting business from imposing mask or vaccine mandates, 3/29/23
- Liz Freeman, Naples Daily News: Collier County debates ‘health freedom bill’ that may become local law, 3/30/23
Local blogger David Silverberg, who spoke against the measures at the meeting as unnecessary given already-enacted state laws prohibiting mandated vaccinations, documentation, and quarantines, also wrote about it for The Paradise Progressive:
Content Is Important
Commissioner Rick LoCastro introduced the agenda item with an impassioned statement about citizen input.
He said he and presumably the other commissioners received hundreds of emails about this agenda item. But the number of emails is not what’s important. What’s important, he said, is the content of the emails.
Cut-and-paste emails and emails that just say “vote no” or “vote yes” without context or explanation are not likely to receive the same weight as those that thoughtfully explain why the writer is asking for a particular vote, he said.
“I got an email from one person,” he said, “that felt like it was a hundred emails because it was so well thought out. It wasn’t overly verbose, but it was hard-hitting and it really got me to think.”
Commissioner Hall’s Opening Remarks
“When I ran for this job,” began Commissioner Chris Hall, who sponsored the two items, “I campaigned specifically because I didn’t want to be told what I should do and what I shouldn’t do …
“I understand the role of an elected official is to protect and to secure the liberties of his constituents,” he continued. “Covid was a time that we went through and we ought to be able to learn from the mistakes that we made…. Decisions were made that benefitted some and didn’t benefit others. I would like to make sure that here in Collier County, everyone has the right to choose their health freedom, their health choices based on what’s good for them.”
Following LoCastro’s and Hall’s comments, about thirty people stepped to the podium to make public comments. According to one source, most spoke in favor, while those opposed argued that it was inappropriate for Collier County.
Confusion About What Was On the Agenda
Following public comments, several commissioners noted that many people who emailed comments or spoke at the meeting seemed to misunderstand what would be decided that day.
According to Agenda Item 10.A., commissioners were asked to:
- vote on whether or not to direct the County Attorney to advertise and bring back the Ordinance for a public hearing, and
- vote on whether or not to adopt the Collier County Health Freedom Resolution.
The vote for or against the ordinance itself was outside the scope of the day’s discussion.
Ordinance vs. Resolution
Commissioner Burt Saunders, who was participating in the meeting virtually, emphasized the difference between an ordinance and a resolution.
As County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow explained, “An ordinance is legally binding. A resolution is simply an expression of the Board’s will.” See Fla. Stat. §166.041 (2022).
Either can generally be repealed by a majority vote (three of the five) commissioners.
Little Discussion About the Ordinance
Other than what was said in Hall’s opening remarks, there was little discussion of the ordinance. As stated by Saunders, all it was doing was “basically codifying state law” at the county level. LoCastro added, “Advertising [the ordinance] means more public discussion, possibly changing language…. We’re not saying we agree with every line on there, we’d place it … on our next agenda.”
With that, Commissioners voted unanimously to have the ordinance as drafted advertised and brought back for a public hearing. (Video Replay at 3:17)
Discussion of the Resolution
During the discussion that followed, Commissioners expressed concerns about the tone of the resolution.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel said the resolution was “accusatory” and extreme. He pointed out that the World Health Organization, to which the resolution referred, has no regulatory authority over the United States. And he noted that not every commissioner was looking at the same version of the document and that he seemed not to have the most recent one in front of him.
At that point, LoCastro and Saunders suggested that the resolution be redrafted, both in view of the many comments as well as to ensure everyone would be voting on the same draft.
LoCastro said the resolution “starts off angry and accusatory.” He said it’s a “feel-good thing,” but that he didn’t know “what it does” or “what the benefit of it” is. He said the resolution “is not a document that exudes leadership” and that he’d rather “invoke leadership and proactiveness and be positive.” And he said that the “bigger thing is the ordinance, and moving forward.” (Video Replay at 3:50)
Commissioner Dan Kowal suggested that the resolution be “summarized in one paragraph” stating that we will “not allow outside entities to interfere with [the sovereignty of the State of Florida].”
Ultimately, the commissioners agreed the resolution needed to be toned down, made less “angry and mean,” and voted to bring it back to be considered at the next meeting, along with the ordinance.
The Group Behind It
The group behind the resolution and ordinance, according to a press release, calls itself the “Covid Tyranny Task Force, a group of active citizens fighting for healthcare freedom in Collier County, Florida.”
“The adoption of the Collier County Health Freedom Resolution is a crucial step towards protecting the health freedom and constitutional rights of citizens in Collier County, Florida,” according to the release.
“The proposed ordinance aims to reinforce fundamental inherent rights protected by the Constitution, promote bodily autonomy, end mandates, ensure informed consent, and enhance doctor-patient interactions without interference or persecution,” it continued. “Once the ordinance is passed, activists will work to train citizens and provide information about their options to opt-out of mandated vaccinations and work on changing statutes that are unconstitutional.”
According to the release, speaking on behalf of the proposals at the meeting would be Scott Kiley, “Collier County Citizen and healthcare freedom activist;” Karen Kingston, “a prominent figure in the healthcare freedom movement;” Dr. James Thorp, maternal-fetal medicine specialist; Dr. George Yiachos, a board-certified cardiologist; Dom Priano, a retired Marine; and Lt. Col. Dr. Pete Chambers, a retired US Army Special Forces officer and Green Beret.
To LoCastro’s repeated questioning of why the resolution was needed, Kiley said at the meeting that while the proposed ordinance would give Collier County employees “legislation to protect them, … it doesn’t do anything for the rest of the public. We want that same benefit…. It’s a baby step that allows us to marshal activists across the county and state to combat the tyranny that’s coming. We have to get offensive. We cannot sit back and play defense. It’s obvious what the WHO is contemplating. The level of tyranny has just begun.”
Both the resolution and the ordinance will be on the agenda for the next BCC meeting, scheduled for Apr. 11.