A critic of Deltona’s government has again put officials on notice of her intention to sue the city for allegedly wrongfully accusing her of a crime.
Brandy White has filed a claim and a notice of a pending civil action — possibly in federal court — over an incident at Deltona City Hall last year and the placement of her name on a state criminal database.
“I can’t do anything for 180 days. I don’t know if they [city officials] are going to want to settle,” White told The Beacon.
White said her case is “pretty strong,” adding that she’s had several meetings with different attorneys.
Meanwhile, Deltona’s insurer, Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust, is taking the matter seriously and preparing for court, according to Mayor Heidi Herzberg. Herzberg has issued a memorandum on the case, effectively shutting down discussion of the matter, for now at least. She read the memo into the record of the City Commission’s June 3 meeting.
“Since this matter has been submitted to the City’s insurance company for investigation and handling and upon their advice and recommendation, we are unable to comment or provide any additional response while the claim is pending,” the memo states. “The insurance carrier’s claim file and the city’s claim file are both confidential and exempt from public records requests …. until termination of all litigation about all claims arising out of the same incident.”
For her part, White confirmed she was contacted by the city’s insurer June 12.
The incident in question played out April 18, 2018, when White went to City Hall to make a public-records request. White videotaped a confrontation with city employees, including Finance Director Camille Hooper, in an open, public area on the second floor of the building.
White said Hooper objected to being recorded, and she was ready to file a charge against White.
Recording or videotaping a person in a nonpublic setting without that party’s permission is a third-degree felony under Florida law. Anyone convicted of a third-degree felony may be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.
Hooper complained to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office about White’s videotaping of her, but White was never arrested, jailed, tried or stripped of her civil rights.
“I was within my rights to record,” White said.
The State Attorney’s Office reviewed the incident and declined to prosecute White.
Yet, the charge still shows up on White’s record, and when background checks are run on her. White is demanding the removal of the charge from her name, but city officials have thus far not pressed for such a change in her record.
“‘Felony’ now pops up anytime even a basic background search is done on my name,” White wrote in her claim against the City of Deltona. “This does not go away, but already caused me problems, and will continue to cause problems in the future.”
She cited the example of her applying to adopt an infant last year.
“[I]n May 2018 I received a call from the adoption agency I was working with,” she said. “Seems that my very last background check before the adoption was finalized, popped up a hit. The agency let me know that I had a pending felony charge and that it would positively delay the upcoming adoption.”
Ultimately, she said, White did become the mother of the child she had requested.
White says the city leadership’s refusal to request her name be fully cleared of any reference to a felony amounts to retaliation for her criticism of City Manager Jane Shang.
On April 17, White personally attempted to serve her claim on Shang and City Attorney Marsha Segal-George, but each of the women refused to accept it.
White even managed to push a copy of the paper into Shang’s car as she drove away from City Hall, only to see Shang throw the paper out of her vehicle.
White has also filed a separate claim against Segal-George with The Florida Bar, an agency of the Florida Supreme Court that sets professional standards and investigates ethical and professional complaints against lawyers.
She said she will ask for unspecified monetary damages.
“I want them to fix it [the placement of felony on her record]. The money is not the issue,” she added.
White said the situation has caused her anguish and distress over the past year or so.
“I haven’t slept many nights,” she concluded. “The damage suffered from this is immense.”