Winter Garden faces backlash for new rules for media outlets

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — The City of Winter Garden is facing some backlash on recent rules commissioners adopted for news outlets.


In February, officials passed a resolution laying out what reports can and can’t do during a meeting. It includes preventing reporters from asking questions during public comment, and not following commissioners before or after the meeting for an interview or comment.

“It infringes on basic newsgathering for putting together a story,” said Norine Dworkin, editor-in-chief of VoxPopuli, a nonprofit news site based in Winter Garden.

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Government attorney Cliff Shepard said, as far as he knows, there are no other municipalities in Central Florida with these kinds of restrictions on journalists, and it’s unusual for there to be an distinction on who can talk during public comment.

“I’ve often used the public comment section of city commission meetings when officials have not responded to me via email or phone call,” Dworkin said.

That most recently happened during the commission meeting on June 22. A few days later, she got an email from City Manager Jon Williams stating she had violated the resolution and that if she continued, she could be banned from future meetings.

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“We’re there to be the eyes and the ears of the public when they are not there themselves,” Dworkin said.

In a statement, the city manager said in part, “The City is happy to address Ms. Dworkin’s questions, however, during the proceedings of a City Commission meeting is not the appropriate time.”

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.