Judge dismisses former CPRB member’s lawsuit against the City of Tallahassee
The judge concluded Biro did not “plausibly alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Former Citizens Police Review Board member Taylor Biro’s first amendment lawsuit against the City of Tallahassee has been dismissed by a judge, according to court records. But Biro’s attorney Marie Mattox signaled in a statement to WCTV the fight might not be over.
Biro filed the lawsuit in December 2022, after the city commission voted to remove her in a 3-2 vote. Before the move, Biro was accused of bringing a controversial coffee mug to a board meeting. According to an order granting the motion to dismiss, the cup reportedly had an ‘abolish police’ sticker. No images of the cup have been publicized.
In her lawsuit, Biro argued her removal was directly related to the cup, and that the move violated her first amendment rights. In a motion to dismiss, the City of Tallahassee argued that all board members serve at the “exclusive pleasure of the City Commission and may be removed at any time.”
The judge concluded Biro did not “plausibly alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim,” according to the order. The judge wrote he accepts “the allegation that the removal was because of Biro’s sticker,” but went on to lay out why he believed her role on the CPRB made her actions subject to scrutiny.
“For one, the speech was from someone with a public-facing role, which is “a factor that ...tips the Pickering balance in favor of the government as an employer,” the judge wrote. The Pickering balance referenced in the document refers to a longstanding four-part test that weighs “whether a public employer violated the First Amendment in acting against an employee,” as explained by the judge.
WCTV’s Mike Rogers reached out to every city commissioner Wednesday, for comment. The city’s attorney released a statement acknowledging the outcome was favorable.
Biro’s removal created one of five vacancies on the CPRB the city has yet to fill. Without all nine seats, the CPRB remains in limbo.
Speaking to WCTV on Wednesday, Ryan Ray aid to commissioner Jeremy Matlow said as a citizen he’d like to see the seats filled.
“The review board not being able to do its work it was created to do because of a lack of a quorum and all of the vacancies, makes it so that the public has one less tool to have all kinds of these important, vital discussions,” Ray said. “We don’t have that right now and I think that we need to do better.”
On Wednesday, the city shared with WCTV that an online link to apply for CPRB is live.
When a quorum is met, the board will meet to discuss what issues to take up. The board could consider two incidents involved TPD officers that have made recent headlines. One, involving an officer who remains on the job after testing positive for drugs. The other, involves the firing of an officer who allegedly got into a fight at a nightclub while off duty.
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