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DeBary Mayor Ouster Had Legal Grounds, Judge Rules

Judge Randell H. Rowe III hears arguments from Clint Johnson's attorney Doug Daniels in hearing to return Johnson to city hall./Photo: File

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A Volusia County circuit judge has ruled that there were legal grounds for DeBary to oust its former mayor. But that doesn’t mean the legal fight is over.

The city council removed former mayor Clint Johnson last year, claiming he gave city staff orders, thus violating the city’s charter.  They based his ouster on four tweets, three emails, and one text.

Johnson sued the city over his removal, and that put his case in the hands of Judge Randell Rowe. Judge Rowe ruled that while none of the tweets and emails were orders, a text to the former city manager was an order.

Johnson’s text said: “cancel this ridiculous meeting and quit trying to burn the city before you leave.”

The text was about a special meeting the city council was holding to discuss whether it would sue Johnson over public records requests.

Johnson’s attorney called the text a “rant” and not an order. But in his ruling, Rowe said the text was more of a command to the former city manager.

“Here, a plain reading of Johnson’s message in evidence is that the mayor is giving a direction or instruction to the city manager to cancel a meeting,” Rowe wrote.

Johnson released a statement that he’s ready to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“My lawyer and I are prepared to appeal this opinion to entirely ensure that future elected officials in the City of DeBary are safe from similar petty, political and inconsistent attacks from an appointed manager,” said Johnson.

DeBary’s attorney Kurt Ardaman said it will be up to the city council to decide how to deal with an appeal, should there be one.


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