The doors to the Brevard County Government Center are finally open to all. On May 17, 2022, Vincent Rinaldi, Charles Munsey Jr., and Charles Violi—plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a Brevard County Ordinance that prohibited them from entering the County government building—will be allowed to attend a Brevard County commission meeting for the first time in years. The three men—and all people on the sex offender registry—are no longer barred from attending public meetings at the Brevard County Government Center because the Commission recently amended an ordinance prohibiting registrants from being within 1000 feet of a school, daycare center, playground, or park. The Government Center is within 1000 feet of a school, but the amendments now create exceptions for attending a public government meeting and conducting official government business. The amendments were enacted in response to a lawsuit brought by the three men against the County seeking to declare the law unconstitutional as a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition their government. The lawsuit, filed in January of this year, remains pending.
In their historic appearance, the three men will attend the meeting and speak during the public comment portion, informing the Commissioners on how the remainder of the ordinance affects their lives. For example, the onerous restrictions limit their ability to take loved ones to the hospital or attend events with their grandchildren. They also live in fear of arrest because there is no map indicating where they are not permitted to go in the County.
They are longtime residents and homeowners of Brevard County who long ago completed all aspects of their criminal sentences. They are active in civil affairs but, until now, have not been permitted to attend county government meetings and speak directly to their representatives on any topic.
The lawsuit also challenges how the Plaintiffs were prohibited from attending a County Commission meeting to speak about a proposed law that was particularly important to them: an amendment to the ordinance that imposed even more restrictions on where registered offenders are permitted to go. In the summer of 2020, the County Commission considered and passed this amendment, and yet the people most affected by it—the Plaintiffs and all registered offenders—were not permitted to attend the meetings to offer their views. In their suit, the Plaintiffs are also seeking to have that part of the law declared void because it was passed at a meeting where they and others were denied access, in violation of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.
The case is Rinaldi et al. v. Brevard County, Case No. 22-CV-00023 in the Middle District of Florida. For more information, contact Ray Taseff, email@example.com, 305-586-4502.