On June 23, The Epoch Times reported that the Collier County Board of County Commissioners (CCBOCC) decided, by a measure of two to three, to postpone their vote on a proposed ordinance that would establish Collier County, Florida as a Bill of Rights Sanctuary. On July 13, the CCBOCC—described now by some as “cowards”—killed the ordinance by a vote of three to two and instead passed what could only be described as a pre-written resolution.
Commissioner Rick LoCastro (District 1) and Vice Chairman William McDaniel (District 5) voted for the ordinance. Commissioners Burt Saunders (District 3) and Andy Solis (District 2), as well as Chairman Penny Taylor (District 4), voted against the measure.
“The fact that they had this resolution already prepared just showed what we already knew to be true,” Kristina Heuser, the attorney who drafted the ordinance, told The Epoch Times. “They had their minds made up before they went into the hearing.”
“This played out over six hours,” Keith Flaugh, managing director of Florida Citizens Alliance, told The Epoch Times, “and when it was all over, Penny jumped up immediately and ran to the projector with a prepared resolution.”
“I know some are pleased with the outcome of the vote and some may have been disappointed with my position on the issue,” LoCastro told The Epoch Times. “But multitudes of others weren’t. Regardless, democracy certainly was exercised as always in our country, and that is what is most important.”
“Even though the outcome of the vote was not in support of the ordinance, which was what I was hoping for and I know many people in the community were hoping for as well,” Dan Cook of The Patriot Project explained to The Epoch Times, “it was a win for the community because so many people came out—from both sides of the aisle—to speak in defense of the Bill of Rights.”
“I think commissioner Rick LoCastro had some very encouraging and on-point closing remarks,” Cook added, “and commissioner Burt Saunders was fair in his line of questioning and I think that sums it up.”
“It’s unfortunate that it’s necessary,” Heuser said of the need to push measures designed to protect our Bill of Rights. “The federal government is really exceeding the bounds of its rightful authority and we need state and local governments to stand up against the federal government in defense of the individual rights of its citizens. It’s really disturbing how our local representatives don’t see that as their responsibility and they only want the United States Supreme Court to determine issues of constitutionality and that’s so contrary to the way our government was structured by our founding fathers.”
“I think this is a ‘hello’ to the federal government,” Florida state Rep. Bob Rommel told The Epoch Times. Rommel was one of the more than 100 Collier County residents who registered to have their three minutes before the board.
“This is more of a statement to the federal government that seems to be dipping its toe in violating the 10th Amendment by usurping power from the states,” Rommel said.
A Coordinated Effort
A little over two dozen people attended the June meeting to address the board about the proposed ordinance. While no one spoke in opposition of the measure at the June meeting, the number of residents who showed up on July 13 to voice their objections nearly equaled the number of those who stood in support.
Comments from those who came to support the ordinance ranged from personal stories of having fled countries like Cuba and Mexico to fears of government overreach displayed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some cited the Biden administration’s decision to send capitol police to open a field office in Tampa, Florida, to investigate citizens they claim are potential “insurrectionists” as a reason for the ordinance. Others spoke about the president’s plan to send people door-to-door “to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” an exercise Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) believes could be a practice run for a future plan to confiscate people’s guns and Bibles.
Comments in opposition to the ordinance ranged from worries about how possible lawsuits would cost taxpayers more money to fears it would create more division and chaos in an already divided country. Considering that the board members already swore an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” some people didn’t understand why the measure was necessary. Others accused those who supported the measure of being “insurrectionists” and expressed confusion as to why they supported a measure to provide “sanctuary” for the Bill of Rights but would oppose providing “sanctuary” to illegal immigrants.
Curiously, while those who supported passage of the ordinance shared unique stories to encourage the board to adopt the measure, several people noticed that the comments delivered by many who opposed the ordinance were awkwardly and notably similar. Identical phrases and words like “insurrectionists,” “supremacy clause,” “unintended consequences” and “nullifying federal law” were heard over and over and in nearly the same order, as if each of them had prepared their individual version of a pre-written script.
According to Hueser, the board members were bombarded with emails prior to the July 13 meeting. She said many of the emails from the opposition referenced a blog post by Collier County resident David Silverberg, who also spoke at the meeting.
During the course of the meeting, LoCastro even mentioned, more than once, the exorbitant amount of emails he had received regarding the proposed ordinance.
In a July 7 post on his blog, The Paradise Progressive, Silverberg pairs the otherwise positive word “sanctuary” (from the title of the ordinance) with a word that has become tied to the chaos that took place at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6: “insurrection.”
In the rambling manifesto that follows, Silverberg provides “an in-depth look at dueling definitions of ‘sanctuary’ in America and Southwest Florida and what they mean for the future” and concludes with a notice of the date of the CCBOCC meeting and the contact information for each board member.
Other posts written by Silverberg display an obsessive and almost disturbing disdain for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a Collier County native who made a surprise appearance at the meeting in June to speak in support of the Bill of Rights Sanctuary Ordinance.
“The left is very good at orchestrating and mobilizing their people and they did that here,” Heuser confessed, saying she had “never seen such a presence from the other side” until that meeting.
Heuser was not the only one to suspect some behind-the-scenes coordination.
“That happens frequently,” Flaugh said. “The fact that they orchestrated all of those people to come in and basically bow to federal government supremacy on anything was shocking.”
“There was an organized, orchestrated campaign against this and a lot of people were using the same talking points,” Cook observed. “I heard anywhere from five to ten people bring up ‘January 6th’ and ‘the insurrectionists.’ I saw a lot of the same tactics exactly a year ago when they passed the mask mandate.”
The Cowardly Resolution
According to Heuser, passing the pre-written resolution was nothing more than a cowardly effort by the board members “to cover themselves politically.”
“The commissioners got it wrong by refusing to stand up and protect the individual rights and Constitutional Rights of Collier County residents,” Heuser insisted. “And for them to pass a resolution saying they support the Constitution, when they demonstrated such a fundamentally flawed understanding of what the Constitution actually stands for, it’s like the Twilight Zone.”
“I had a fair amount of anger at the way it played out,” Flaugh confessed. “But at the end of the day, as I thought about it, it was just sad. We have three board of county commissioners who claim to be conservatives. I would call them cowards.”