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DeFuniak Springs Council Ending Drug Tests a Victory for Fourth Amendment
City repeals unconstitutional city policy after ACLU of Fla.’s lawsuit on behalf of planning director fired for refusing to submit to invasive search
Defuniak Springs, FLA. - January 15 - The ACLU of Florida celebrated a major victory for the privacy and dignity of city employees in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, as the city council voted to repeal a policy that subjected all employees to random, suspicionless drug testing.
Yesterday, the city council voted to repeal the drug testing policy in response to the ACLU of Florida filing a federal lawsuit in October 2012 in federal court. Representing the city’s former Planning Director, Greg Scoville, the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment earlier this month arguing that the policy was facially unconstitutional and the city applied it to Scoville, an office worker who posed no special threat.
The city fired Scoville when he refused to submit to the unconstitutional drug test that the city required Scoville to undertake without suspicion that Scoville was using drugs. In response to the vote taken by the city council to end the policy under which that search would have been conducted, Scoville and the ACLU of Florida have decided to settle their suit.
"I am glad that the city council will now have to stop this pointless and ill-informed policy of treating city employees like suspected criminals simply because we have chosen to serve in government," stated Scoville. "I don’t want any other city employees to be subject to this unconstitutional treatment. As I said when this whole matter started, government must know its limits."
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Scoville’s behalf after Scoville declined to submit to a warrantless, suspicionless search under the city’s random drug testing program in September of 2012, citing his belief that the suspicionless testing policy was a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches by the government. Four days later, the DeFuniak Springs City Council voted to terminate his employment for his refusal to comply with the suspicionless search.
Having read about the legal challenge that halted Governor Scott’s March 2011 Executive Order mandating state employees in Executive Branch agencies submit to similar suspicionless drug testing (AFSCME v. Scott), Scoville contacted the ACLU of Florida for assistance.
"Greg Scoville took an important stand for the rights and dignity of public employees," stated ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Benjamin Stevenson. "We hope that other communities look at the important message about the Fourth Amendment which the DeFuniak Springs Council learned in this case: that working for the government does not mean you have to surrender your constitutional rights. Hopefully it won’t take more public servants needlessly losing their jobs and more federal lawsuits for them to realize it.
The repeal of the unconstitutional policy is the latest in a series of victories over drug testing programs that target government employees without suspicion of wrongdoing. In 2004, the same federal court in which Scoville’s lawsuit is filed, found unconstitutional the state’s random drug testing of a long-term planner at the Department of Juvenile Justice. More recently, in April 2012, a federal judge blocked Governor Rick Scott’s executive order requiring random, suspicionless drug testing of state employees brought by the ACLU and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).