Suncoast Technical College and two Sarasota County School district employees are facing a lawsuit, which alleges they denied a man's constitutional rights.
The lawsuit filed by Anthony Trupia, 38, of Sarasota was filed on Dec. 31 in the Circuit Court.
The suit alleges that Trupia's First Amendment rights were violated when he was denied entrance to the technical college's campus to collect signatures as a paid canvasser.
Trupia said every two to four years he collects signatures professionally. When he went to the Suncoast Technical College's campus, he was attempting to collect signatures for petition 19-08 Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments.
19-08, requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect.
The lawsuit also names two employees, Darby Larkin, Assistant Director at STC, whom the suit states was the face-to-face contact for the matter. The suit also names Thomas Galluci, School Resource Officer at STC, who restricted public use of the campus grounds.
According to the lawsuit, filed by Trupia without legal representation, "Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief for violation of civil rights and loss of time at work in plaintiff's home zip code."
Suncoast Technical College is a publicly funded trade school in Sarasota. The school also has a North Port campus. Suncoast Technical College offers adult technical programs and dual enrollment for high school students.
"The reason I tried to petition at STC is because it is easily the best place in the ZIP code to reach concentrated Sarasota voters," Trupia said in a statement to The Sun.
"I have never seen a college deny that freedom of speech is protected on campus. Some campuses have reasonable restrictions, but I've never seen a blanket ban on signature gathering," Trupia said.
The suit states that Trupia planned on working at the college's campus no less than 10 days.
As a result of being denied entrance to the campus to collect signatures, Trupia is seeking "compensatory damages and costs in the amount of $1,000 for each day [he] is restricted from working on college campus in his home ZIP code," the suit states.
It is not clear from the lawsuit how many days Trupia is seeking compensation for.
At the Sarasota School Board's Jan. 9 meeting, board attorney Art Hardy asked for permission to represent the school and the two employees named. The board granted him permission.
Hardy said the district has 20 days to respond to the suit, and they are working on a response.