Man sues Punta Gorda, says city recording law is unconstitutional

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Outside Punta Gorda City Hall. Credit: WINK News.

A man is suing the City of Punta Gorda after officials gave him a trespass warning for recording employees in city hall in 2018.

Months after receiving the warning, Andrew Sheets has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The federal lawsuit claims the ordinance violates the First Amendment, calling the code “an unreasonable restriction.”

“It is a civil rights violation,” Sheets said. “I have the right to free speech, the right to record.”

Sheets recorded a meeting at Punta Gorda City Hall last December on a body camera. He did it despite new rules that ban recordings on city properties without permission from those being recorded.

“A public official doing their public doings in a public place has no expectation of privacy,” Sheets said.

Sheets called the ordinance unconstitutional

“I knew it was wrong, so that’s why I did it,” Sheet said.

We contacted the City of Punta Gorda for a response, but officials won’t comment on pending or current litigation involving the city.

Charlotte County enacted a similar ordinance in May, which prohibits anyone from recordings in libraries, county offices, jails and buses without permission from county administrators, except for public meetings.

Sheets wants the city to reimburse him for the cost of the trespass warning and declare the code unconstitutional.

“I don’t fight, no body fights,” Sheets said. “We all lose our freedom.”

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