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Monday, 10 August 2009 23:00

About Florida Sunshine Law

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This information made available to us by Save Our Aquifer.
2. Circumstances in which the Sunshine Law may apply to a single individual or where two board members are not physically present

"Certain factual situations, however, have arisen where, in order to assure public access to the decision-making processes of public boards or commissions, it has been necessary to conclude that the presence of two individuals of the same board or commission is not necessary to trigger application of s. 286.011, F.S. As stated by the Supreme Court, the Sunshine Law is to be construed "so as to frustrate all evasive devices." Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473, 477 (Fla. 1974)."

e. Use of nonmembers as liaisons between board members

"The Sunshine Law is applicable to meetings between a board member and an individual who is not a member of the board when that individual is being used as a liaison between, or to conduct a de facto meeting of, board members. See, AGO 74-47 (city manager is not a member of the city council and thus, may meet with individual council members; however, the manager may not act as a liaison for board members by circulating information and thoughts of individual council members). Compare, AGO 89-39 (aides to county commissioners would not be subject to the Sunshine Law unless they have been delegated decision-making functions outside of the ambit of normal staff functions, are acting as liaisons between board members, or are acting in place of the board or its members at their direction)."

"For example, in Blackford v. School Board of Orange County, 375 So. 2d 578 (Fla. 5th DCA 1979), the court held that a series of scheduled successive meetings between the school superintendent and individual members of the school board were subject to the Sunshine Law. While normally meetings between the school superintendent and an individual school board member would not be subject to s. 286.011, F.S., these meetings were held in "rapid-fire succession" in order to avoid a public airing of a controversial redistricting problem. They amounted to a de facto meeting of the school board in violation of s. 286.011, F.S."

"Similarly, in Sentinel Communications Company v. School Board of Osceola County, No. CI92-0045 (Fla. 9th Cir. Ct. April 3, 1992), the court found that a series of private meetings between a school superintendent and individual school board members which were scheduled by the superintendent to present and consider staff recommendations concerning the administrative structure of the school system and to privately address any objections or concerns that the board might have, should have been held in the sunshine. The court said that its decision should not be construed to prohibit individual board members from meeting privately with staff or the superintendent for informational purposes or on an ad hoc basis. However, "[i]t shall be construed to prohibit the scheduling of a series of such meetings which concern a specific agenda." Thus, the court enjoined the board and its superintendent "from holding any further closed door meetings to formulate Board policy, discuss matters where Board action is contemplated, or otherwise conduct the public's business.""

"In Citizens for a Better Royal Palm Beach, Inc. v. Village of Royal Palm Beach, No. CL 91-14417 AA (Fla. 15th Cir. Ct. May 14, 1992), the court invalidated a contract for the sale of municipal property when it determined that after the proposal to sell the property which had been discussed and approved at a public meeting collapsed, the city manager met individually with council members and from those discussions the property was sold to another group. The circuit court found that these meetings resulted in a substantial change in the terms of sale and that the execution of the contract, therefore, violated the Sunshine Law."
Thanks to Save Our Aquifer for making this information readily available.
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 January 2010 21:24
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