TAMPA — John Dingfelder, one of the leading voices in the discussion of Tampa's plans for the Republican National Convention, is leaving his job as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Dingfelder, 55, is a former two-term Tampa City Council member who joined the ACLU as senior staff attorney last summer. He is leaving at the end of May for a public defender's job, ACLU executives said, though further details about his plans were not available late Thursday.
The move has been under discussion for a while, and "John agreed to get us to a good place with regard to preparations for the Republican National Convention (RNC) before he left," ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon said in an email to staff. "We have agreed that this is a good time for him to now make that move."
In his role with the ACLU, Dingfelder has met repeatedly with police and Tampa city officials to discuss the city's plans to streamline its permitting process for large public assemblies outside the convention, to create a parade route for demonstrators and to establish a zone where protesters can speak their minds within sight and sound of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"He provided some valuable input over the months that we've worked through this," City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. said.
"John was instrumental in working through the process and helping to convince the city that they had problems with the original ordinance," ACLU legal director Randall Marshall said. "John is well-respected in Tampa, and he was able to open a lot of doors to make connections to talk to city officials and high-ranking officials in the Police Department."
The ACLU will hire another attorney in Tampa. In the meantime, Dingfelder has organized staff and volunteers into an RNC working group.
"There is, behind the scenes, a lot of ACLU activity to gear up for the convention to ensure that people who come and exercise their First Amendment rights have the ability to do so," Marshall said.