Doral council members approved an ordinance Tuesday that would allow the mayor to establish a spokesperson as the official voice of the city.
For the last 10 years, the mayor has been the designated person to speak on any official city position. The mayor would now have the authority to appoint a council member to act as a spokesperson.
"The ordinance came to be amended because the council in our strategic planning session in February felt we needed to speak with one voice as a council when we make a collective decision," Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said.
The new language in a section of the ordinance also states that "council members who intentionally and repeatedly fail to comply with this section may be reprimanded or formally censured by the council."
"Although you're not formally being censored, by creating a censure you are creating a sanction, which means when I go out to the media to speak, I am in fear of being censured by my colleagues when I come back up on the dais because they may not agree with what I said," said council member Christi Fraga.
The director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information says the Doral ordinance is constitutionally questionable.
"It's symbolically something that might deter somebody from speaking," Frank Lomonte said. "And the Supreme Court has always said, we don't want to chill people from speaking, we don't want to intimidate them, especially not on political issues."
Bermudez says the ordinance is not meant to stifle the council's freedom of speech. The ordinance instructs public officials to specifically state to the media that their comments are personal viewpoints.
"It doesn't stop me at all from coming out, I'm here speaking to the media and giving my opinion ... so there's no change in that," said council member Claudia Mariaca. "What we want to make sure is that there is a guideline when giving out information that is pertinent to the city."