Friday, July 17, 2009

Have You Read or Heard President Obama's Address to NAACP Centennary Celebration in Denver, Colorado Yesterday? Please Read It -- Here it is:

Transcript Of President Obama’s Remarks At The NAACP Centennial
July 16, 2009 7:11 pm. 1 Comment | History and President Obama
As prepared for delivery…

July 16, 2009

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

NAACP Centennial

New York, New York

July 16, 2009

It is an honor to be here, in the city where the NAACP was formed, to mark its centennial. What we celebrate tonight is not simply the journey the NAACP has traveled, but the journey that we, as Americans, have traveled over the past one hundred years.

It is a journey that takes us back to a time before most of us were born, long before the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and Brown v. Board of Education; back to an America just a generation past slavery. It was a time when Jim Crow was a way of life; when lynchings were all too common; and when race riots were shaking cities across a segregated land.

It was in this America where an Atlanta scholar named W.E.B. Du Bois, a man of towering intellect and a fierce passion for justice, sparked what became known as the Niagara movement; where reformers united, not by color but cause; and where an association was born that would, as its charter says, promote equality and eradicate prejudice among citizens of the United States.

From the beginning, Du Bois understood how change would come – just as King and all the civil rights giants did later. They understood that unjust laws needed to be overturned; that legislation needed to be passed; and that Presidents needed to be pressured into action. They knew that the stain of slavery and the sin of segregation had to be lifted in the courtroom and in the legislature.

But they also knew that here, in America, change would have to come from the people. It would come from people protesting lynching, rallying against violence, and walking instead of taking the bus. It would come from men and women – of every age and faith, race and region – taking Greyhounds on Freedom Rides; taking seats at Greensboro lunch counters; and registering voters in rural Mississippi, knowing they would be harassed, knowing they would be beaten, knowing that they might never return.

Because of what they did, we are a more perfect union. Because Jim Crow laws were overturned, black CEOs today run Fortune 500 companies. Because civil rights laws were passed, black mayors, governors, and Members of Congress serve in places where they might once have been unable to vote. And because ordinary people made the civil rights movement their own, I made a trip to Springfield a couple years ago – where Lincoln once lived, and race riots once raged – and began the journey that has led me here tonight as the 44th President of the United States of America.

And yet, even as we celebrate the remarkable achievements of the past one hundred years; even as we inherit extraordinary progress that cannot be denied; even as we marvel at the courage and determination of so many plain folks – we know that too many barriers still remain.

We know that even as our economic crisis batters Americans of all races, African Americans are out of work more than just about anyone else – a gap that’s widening here in New York City, as detailed in a report this week by Comptroller Bill Thompson.

We know that even as spiraling health care costs crush families of all races, African Americans are more likely to suffer from a host of diseases but less likely to own health insurance than just about anyone else.

We know that even as we imprison more people of all races than any nation in the world, an African-American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a jail.

And we know that even as the scourge of HIV/AIDS devastates nations abroad, particularly in Africa, it is devastating the African-American community here at home with disproportionate force.

These are some of the barriers of our time. They’re very different from the barriers faced by earlier generations. They’re very different from the ones faced when fire hoses and dogs were being turned on young marchers; when Charles Hamilton Houston and a group of young Howard lawyers were dismantling segregation.

But what is required to overcome today’s barriers is the same as was needed then. The same commitment. The same sense of urgency. The same sense of sacrifice. The same willingness to do our part for ourselves and one another that has always defined America at its best.

The question, then, is where do we direct our efforts? What steps do we take to overcome these barriers? How do we move forward in the next one hundred years?

The first thing we need to do is make real the words of your charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there’s probably never been less discrimination in America than there is today.

But make no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African-American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and gender. By Latinos made to feel unwelcome in their own country. By Muslim Americans viewed with suspicion for simply kneeling down to pray. By our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.

On the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination must not stand. Not on account of color or gender; how you worship or who you love. Prejudice has no place in the United States of America.

But we also know that prejudice and discrimination are not even the steepest barriers to opportunity today. The most difficult barriers include structural inequalities that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind; inequalities still plaguing too many communities and too often the object of national neglect.

These are barriers we are beginning to tear down by rewarding work with an expanded tax credit; making housing more affordable; and giving ex-offenders a second chance. These are barriers that we are targeting through our White House Office on Urban Affairs, and through Promise Neighborhoods that build on Geoffrey Canada’s success with the Harlem Children’s Zone; and that foster a comprehensive approach to ending poverty by putting all children on a pathway to college, and giving them the schooling and support to get there.

But our task of reducing these structural inequalities has been made more difficult by the state, and structure, of the broader economy; an economy fueled by a cycle of boom and bust; an economy built not on a rock, but sand. That is why my administration is working so hard not only to create and save jobs in the short-term, not only to extend unemployment insurance and help for people who have lost their health care, not only to stem this immediate economic crisis, but to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity that will put opportunity within reach not just for African Americans, but for all Americans.

One pillar of this new foundation is health insurance reform that cuts costs, makes quality health coverage affordable for all, and closes health care disparities in the process. Another pillar is energy reform that makes clean energy profitable, freeing America from the grip of foreign oil, putting people to work upgrading low-income homes, and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced. And another pillar is financial reform with consumer protections to crack down on mortgage fraud and stop predatory lenders from targeting our poor communities.

All these things will make America stronger and more competitive. They will drive innovation, create jobs, and provide families more security. Still, even if we do it all, the African-American community will fall behind in the United States and the United States will fall behind in the world unless we do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters. In the 21st century – when so many jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or more, when countries that out-educate us today will outcompete us tomorrow – a world-class education is a prerequisite for success.

You know what I’m talking about. There’s a reason the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools. There’s a reason Thurgood Marshall took up the cause of Linda Brown. There’s a reason the Little Rock Nine defied a governor and a mob. It’s because there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential.

Yet, more than a half century after Brown v. Board of Education, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across this country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math – an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way on civil rights. Over half of all African-American students are dropping out of school in some places. There are overcrowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children – black, brown, and white alike.

The state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it’s an American problem. And if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve it, then all of us can agree on that. All of us can agree that we need to offer every child in this country the best education the world has to offer from the cradle through a career.

That is our responsibility as the United States of America. And we, all of us in government, are working to do our part by not only offering more resources, but demanding more reform.

When it comes to higher education, we are making college and advanced training more affordable, and strengthening community colleges that are a gateway to so many with an initiative that will prepare students not only to earn a degree but find a job when they graduate; an initiative that will help us meet the goal I have set of leading the world in college degrees by 2020.

We are creating a Race to the Top Fund that will reward states and public school districts that adopt 21st century standards and assessments. And we are creating incentives for states to promote excellent teachers and replace bad ones – because the job of a teacher is too important for us to accept anything but the best.

We should also explore innovative approaches being pursued here in New York City; innovations like Bard High School Early College and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School that are challenging students to complete high school and earn a free associate’s degree or college credit in just four years.

And we should raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs. Today, some early learning programs are excellent. Some are mediocre. And some are wasting what studies show are – by far – a child’s most formative years.

That’s why I have issued a challenge to America’s governors: if you match the success of states like Pennsylvania and develop an effective model for early learning; if you focus reform on standards and results in early learning programs; if you demonstrate how you will prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success – you can compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant that will help prepare all our children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

So, these are some of the laws we are passing. These are some of the policies we are enacting. These are some of the ways we are doing our part in government to overcome the inequities, injustices, and barriers that exist in our country.

But all these innovative programs and expanded opportunities will not, in and of themselves, make a difference if each of us, as parents and as community leaders, fail to do our part by encouraging excellence in our children. Government programs alone won’t get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes – because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves.

We have to say to our children, Yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades, that’s not a reason to cut class, that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands – and don’t you forget that.

To parents, we can’t tell our kids to do well in school and fail to support them when they get home. For our kids to excel, we must accept our own responsibilities. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework.

And it means we need to be there for our neighbor’s son or daughter, and return to the day when we parents let each other know if we saw a child acting up. That’s the meaning of community. That’s how we can reclaim the strength, the determination, the hopefulness that helped us come as far as we already have.

It also means pushing our kids to set their sights higher. They might think they’ve got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be President of the United States.

So, yes, government must be a force for opportunity. Yes, government must be a force for equality. But ultimately, if we are to be true to our past, then we also have to seize our own destiny, each and every day.

That is what the NAACP is all about. The NAACP was not founded in search of a handout. The NAACP was not founded in search of favors. The NAACP was founded on a firm notion of justice; to cash the promissory note of America that says all our children, all God’s children, deserve a fair chance in the race of life.

It is a simple dream, and yet one that has been denied – one still being denied – to so many Americans. It’s a painful thing, seeing that dream denied. I remember visiting a Chicago school in a rough neighborhood as a community organizer, and thinking how remarkable it was that all of these children seemed so full of hope, despite being born into poverty, despite being delivered into addiction, despite all the obstacles they were already facing.

And I remember the principal of the school telling me that soon all of that would begin to change; that soon, the laughter in their eyes would begin to fade; that soon, something would shut off inside, as it sunk in that their hopes would not come to pass – not because they weren’t smart enough, not because they weren’t talented enough, but because, by accident of birth, they didn’t have a fair chance in life.

So, I know what can happen to a child who doesn’t have that chance. But I also know what can happen to a child who does. I was raised by a single mother. I don’t come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a kid. My life could easily have taken a turn for the worse. But that mother of mine gave me love; she pushed me, and cared about my education; she took no lip and taught me right from wrong. Because of her, I had a chance to make the most of my abilities. I had the chance to make the most of my opportunities. I had the chance to make the most of life.

The same story holds for Michelle. The same story holds for so many of you. And I want all the other Barack Obamas out there, and all the other Michelle Obamas out there, to have that same chance – the chance that my mother gave me; that my education gave me; that the United States of America gave me. That is how our union will be perfected and our economy rebuilt. That is how America will move forward in the next one hundred years.

And we will move forward. This I know – for I know how far we have come. Last week, in Ghana, Michelle and I took Malia and Sasha to Cape Coast Castle, where captives were once imprisoned before being auctioned; where, across an ocean, so much of the African-American experience began. There, reflecting on the dungeon beneath the castle church, I was reminded of all the pain and all the hardships, all the injustices and all the indignities on the voyage from slavery to freedom.

But I was also reminded of something else. I was reminded that no matter how bitter the rod or how stony the road, we have persevered. We have not faltered, nor have we grown weary. As Americans, we have demanded, strived for, and shaped a better destiny.

That is what we are called to do once more. It will not be easy. It will take time. Doubts may rise and hopes recede.

But if John Lewis could brave Billy clubs to cross a bridge, then I know young people today can do their part to lift up our communities.

If Emmet Till’s uncle Mose Wright could summon the courage to testify against the men who killed his nephew, I know we can be better fathers and brothers, mothers and sisters in our own families.

If three civil rights workers in Mississippi – black and white, Christian and Jew, city-born and country-bred – could lay down their lives in freedom’s cause, I know we can come together to face down the challenges of our own time. We can fix our schools, heal our sick, and rescue our youth from violence and despair.

One hundred years from now, on the 200th anniversary of the NAACP, let it be said that this generation did its part; that we too ran the race; that full of the faith that our dark past has taught us, full of the hope that the present has brought us, we faced, in our own lives and all across this nation, the rising sun of a new day begun. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

University of Florida, Brechner Center for Freedom of Information: Criminal Prosecutions in Sunshine Law Cases


Florida Public Records and Open Meetings Laws Prosecutions Database
http://brechner.org/db_prosecutions.asp

The Brechner Center
for Freedom of Information

PO Box 118400
3208 Weimer Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-8400
Phone: (352) 392-2273
Fax: (352) 392-9173
About The Brechner Center

The Brechner Center answers queries about media law from journalists, attorneys, and other members of the public. The Center is prepared to explain issues relating to media law, react to current developments, and offer speakers for meetings and classes.

Florida Public Records and Open Meetings Laws Prosecutions Database


The following chronology lists known cases in which public officials either pleaded no contest or guilty to or were convicted of criminal or civil charges under the Open Records or Open Meetings Law. Many of the officials paid fines or court costs, or both. In some cases, charges were dropped in exchange for commitments by officials to study the open government laws or perform community service.


This listing is based on a survey of past issues of The Brechner Report and its predecessor, The Freedom of Information Clearinghouse Newsletter. It includes cases reported by state newspapers or otherwise brought to the attention of newsletter editors. The Brechner Center would like to receive information about other open meetings or records cases which have been prosecuted. The Center also would like to receive additional or updated information on any of the cases listed in the chronology. If you would like to bring any information to our attention, please contact us by mail, telephone or fax.




FEBRUARY 2008 (Fort Myers): The federal government will pay $105,000 in attorneys’ fees to The News-Press following the newspaper’s successful lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for the release of public records. The agency was sued after it refused to release information about the 1.1 million recipients of $1.2 billion in disaster aid after the 2004 Florida hurricane season.

FEBRUARY 2008 (Marco Island): Marco Island City Councilman Chuck Kiester has been accused of violating the Florida Public Records Law, which prohibits the deletion of e-mails related to government business. Kiester was charged with failing to maintain, preserve or allow inspection of public records that were generated between the time he took office in March 2006 until March 2007.

FEBRUARY 2008 (Washington, D.C.): A federal judge ruled that White House visitor logs are public records, rejecting the Bush Administration’s efforts to avoid release of records that show visits by prominent religious conservatives. The Bush Administration is expected to appeal the ruling.

MARCH 2008 (West Palm Beach): The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that portions of a grand jury report about a government official’s alleged manipulation of a public meeting rebroadcast will not be deleted from the report. The investigation criticized Mayor Lois Frankel’s delay of a 2004 rebroadcast on the city’s public access cable channel of a city meeting in which citizens criticized the city’s efforts to fight crime.

MARCH 2008 (Fort Lauderdale): The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s attorney fees following a legal battle for the identities of disaster-aid recipients of the 2004 Florida hurricane season.

APRIL 2008 (Jacksonville): An unsealed grand jury report found evidence that Jacksonville City Council members committed “technical or noncriminal” violations of Florida’s Open Meetings Law. State Attorney Howard Shorstein said he will not prosecute unless there is evidence of a kickback to a Jacksonville City Council member or other criminal act.

APRIL 2008 (Sneads):The City of Sneads agreed to pay former Police Chief William Nelson $10,000 and his attorneys $25,000 seven years after he filed suit alleging the city violated Florida’s Open Meetings Law. The former police chief was fired by the town council during a special meeting to which, he alleged, the public was not given proper notice.

APRIL 2008 (Hallandale Beach):City Commissioners have agreed to pay former Hallandale Beach Police officer Talous Cirilo more than $100,000 to settle a lawsuit. In 2005, the city refused to reinstate Cirilo on the police force after he was charged with and acquitted of three misdemeanor counts of battery on a prisoner. The two lawsuits filed against the city alleged that the city civil service board held and illegal meeting a week before the scheduled meeting. It also alleged falsification of evidence and persuasion of a felon to lie under oath about Cirilo.

APRIL 2008 (Highlands County): The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that public records providers can include both salary and benefits when calculating their special service charges for responses to extensive public records requests. The case stemmed from a 2005 records request which charged $65 in advance to cover the estimated costs of locating the records. The suit alleged that the county failed to make the records available to the requester and that he should have not been required to prepay for the records search.

MAY 2008 (Broward County): Collier County Judge Mike Carr found Marco Island city council member Chuck Kiester guilty of a noncriminal public records violation for deleting e-mails that contained information about city business from his personal computer. Kiester was ordered to pay the maximum $500 fine.

JUNE 2008 (Washington, D.C.): Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy appealed a district court judge’s contempt order imposing fines of up to $5,000 per day—from Locy’s own pocket—for refusing to reveal confidential sources. The order was issued after Locy refused to disclose the names of sources who identified a former Army infectious disease researcher as a suspect in a federal investigation into terrorist attacks. Locy was prohibited from receiving assistance in paying the fines.

JUNE 2008 (Sarasota): The Sarasota Circuit Court dismissed a 2006 defamation suit filed by an elementary school principal against a TV news station after 10 months of inactivity on behalf of the plaintiff in the case. The suit alleged that the station’s assistant manager and news director spread misinformation about the principal’s 2002 arrest for stalking, a charge that had been dropped.

JULY 2008 (Venice): After an emergency hearing, a circuit judge ruled three Venice City Council members must allow a computer expert to obtain government business e-mails from their home computers. A recently filed lawsuit claims that four council members violated the Open Meetings Law by discussing city business in private e-mails.

JULY 2008 (Naples):Terminated Collier County school district superintendent Ray Baker settled his Open Meetings Law violation lawsuit with the district for $555,000. Baker alleged that school board members violated the Open Meetings Law to meet and secretly terminate his contract by voiding it. The School Board attorney advocated settling and estimated that had the case gone to trial, the district would have faced $2.2 to $2.67 million in exposure.

AUGUST 2008 (Sarasota County): The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office settled a lawsuit alleging the office failed to give the public enough notice of disciplinary hearings. In exchange for dropping the suit, the settlement agreement requires the office to have training on open government laws, amend its internal rules and pay $15,613 in attorney fees to the plaintiff.

AUGUST 2008 (Sebring): Highlands County Commissioners settled a lawsuit filed by a watchdog claiming that the county failed to copy a grant application for state funds to refurbish a high school as a hurricane shelter. Plaintiff Preston Colby received over $9,100 in the settlement.

AUGUST 2008 (Washington, D.C.): A U.S. district judge ruled that the White House’s Office of Administration does not have to comply with FOIA and make public internal documents about the disappearance of e-mails.

NOVEMBER 2008 (Orlando): A circuit judge awarded Larry Giles, the operator of the Veranda Park News, $180,000 under a Florida Statute that protects homeowners who petition regarding their homeowners’ associations. Giles was initially sued by real estate group Veranda Partners after he published allegedly defamatory statements saying the company misspent homeowners’ association dues, among other things. Giles counterclaimed that the suit was unlawful under Florida’s anti-SLAPP statute because it intended to stop him from petitioning.


JANUARY 2007: Two Monroe County commissioners were charged with violating the Sunshine Law. Mayor Mario Di Gennaro and Commissioner Sonny McCoy each face a civil infraction carrying a fine of up to $500. The charges stemmed from a September post-meeting discussion regarding an upcoming mayoral election. Di Gennaro and then-Mayor McCoy allegedly had a brief conversation about Di Gennaro's plans to run for mayor.

FEBRUARY 2007:(Tampa): Former county worker Gary Mitchell was unsuccessful in his attempt to appeal the dismissal of his case. Mitchell claimed he was denied his First Amendment rights when he was fired from his job after making graphic remarks about female genitalia when addressing a former commissioner.

MARCH 2007 (Key West):Florida Keys Community College will pay the legal fees of a newspaper company after the two parties reached a settlement in a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit. Cooke Communications, owner of the Key West Citizen, filed suit claiming its constitutional right to publish without retribution from a government agency was violated. The college did not admit any wrongdoing but did agree to pay $9,000 in court fees.

MARCH 2007 (Ocala): A hospital that was indicted on misdemeanor charges for violating Florida’s open government laws during a CEO search has reached an agreement with the State Attorney’s Office. The hospital, which leases publicly owned facilities, did not concede guilt but will pay $2,000 for investigative costs.

MAY 2007 (Tampa:)The Tampa Tribune received $28,106 from the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau to pay the newspaper’s legal fees in connection with a public records lawsuit against the bureau. The bureau said the payment was not an admission of wrongdoing. The payment ends the dispute between the newspaper and the bureau over bid preparation documents for the 2008 Republican National Convention.

AUGUST 2007 (Washington, D.C.): The Supreme Court ruled that a high school principal did not violate a student’s First Amendment rights when she told him to take down a 14-foot banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” and subsequently suspended him for 10 days when he refused. The decision gives schools wider discretion to limit messages that appear to advocate illegal drug use.

OCTOBER 2007 (Fort Myers): A panel for the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FEMA must provide The News-Press (Fort Myers) and other Florida newspapers with the addresses of households that received disaster aid between 1998 and 2004. The News-Press found that fewer than one in three received assistance. In opposing the release of the information, the government argued that disclosure would violate the privacy of recipients, stigmatize victims and potentially be used for identity theft.

OCTOBER 2007 (Lakeland): The Polk County Opportunity Council’s effort to overturn a ruling that they violated the Open Meetings Law was rejected by the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Because the 2nd District didn’t issue a written opinion, the PCOC has nothing to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The civil infractions against the 10 board members stemmed from a September 2005 meeting where the board paused a public meeting to discuss reprimanding its executive director.

DECEMBER 2007 (Orlando): Orlando television station WKMG-TV prevailed in a lawsuit challenging a trial court’s order which prohibited it from airing stories about a political consultant. The 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that consultant Doug Guetzloe did not prove his privacy concerns outweighed the station’s First Amendment rights.

DECEMBER 2007 (Fort Myers):The News-Press prevailed in a public records lawsuit against city councilman Warren Wright, winning the right of access to a settlement agreement. Wright sued the city and a developer over the construction of a 14-story tower near a lot he owned in a historic district. The suit was later settled, but the agreement was not made public.


OCTOBER 2006: A Sebastian city councilman was found not guilty of violating the state's Sunshine Law and charges were dropped against another council member, with a judge saying the law does not ban all talk between public officials. Andrea Coy and Sal Neglia faced noncriminal charges for violating the Sunshine Law. At a January 25, 2007, meeting, Neglia said he recently had called Coy to learn more about a dispute between local lawn bowlers and tennis players over the use of a park's clay tennis courts. Former Mayor Walter Barnes filed a complaint with the State Attorney's Office about Neglia and Coy talking about city business outside of a public meeting.

SEPTEMBER 2006: A hospital indicted on misdemeanor charges for violating Florida's open government laws during a CEO search reached an agreement with the State Attorney's Office. A Marion County grand jury indicted Munroe Regional Health Systems Inc., saying hospital officials violated public records and open meetings laws this year while searching for a new chief executive officer. The grand jury indicted the not-for-profit hospital on two counts following an investigation by State Attorney Brad King. Individual board members were not charged. In exchange for amending its lease to reflect principles of "operating in the spirit of open government," the State Attorney's Office dismissed the charges.

SEPTEMBER 2006: A four-month investigation into alleged Sunshine Law violations by Monroe County commissioners resulted in no evidence of wrongdoing, according to a State Attorney's Office report. The firing of the county attorney at a February meeting prompted the investigation. Richard Collins was fired at the meeting after the action was added to the agenda at the last minute. The investigation involved interviews with the five commissioners and other county employees. E-mails, cell phone records and other communications were also subpoenaed.

JULY 2006: Two current and three former town council members were accused of violating the Sunshine Law by allegedly excluding town employees from public meetings. The charges stemmed from a 2004 budget workshop during which the then-town manager was asked to leave while his salary was discussed. Mayor Richard C. Dunlop and former council members Walter J. Sackville, John Brehmer and Barbara Greenbaum Deputron were accused of the violation.

MAY 2006: A circuit judge dropped criminal charges against an Escambia County commissioner who died in 2004. Willie Junior disappeared a day before he was to be sentenced on corruption charges. He died of an apparent suicide. The main reason for the request to drop charges was to allow Junior's widow to receive her husband's retirement benefits from the county and state. Junior and three other county commissioners were indicted in May 2002. Junior faced charges ranging from racketeering and bribery to violating the Sunshine Law.

MAY 2006: Four Pompano Beach City Commissioners charged with violating the Sunshine Law have agreed to donate $200 each to charity. In exchange for the commissioners’ admission of guilt and donation, prosecutors have agreed that the violations were inadvertent. The charges stemmed from a 2004 lunch meeting between commissioners Kay McGinn, Susan Foster, Lamar Fisher and George Brummer and Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne.

APRIL 2006: Ten members of the Polk County Opportunity Council were found guilty of violating the Sunshine Law. County Judge Anne Kaylor ordered each board member to pay a $250 fine and $28.60 in court costs. The non-criminal charges stemmed from a closed September meeting during which the board discussed former executive director Carolyn Speed. The members charged are Patricia Hunter, Collins Smith, Morris Chestang, Booker Young, Beverly Howell, Jessie Kirby, Annie Bryant Phyall, Ben Graham, Dennis Goosby and Ozell Wilson. The PCOC members later appealed the ruling in June 2006, but the appeal was denied by a circuit judge.

FEBRUARY 2006: A noncriminal judgment against former Oak Hill City Commissioner Ron Mercer for violating the Sunshine Law was overturned by two circuit judges. Judges John Watson and Edwin Sanders vacated the November 2003 judgment and ordered Mercer’s $500 fine be returned. Mercer and fellow commissioner Bob Jackson reportedly had a private discussion about a mayoral appointment in January 2002. In a joint opinion, the judges found that “the brief exchange between the two officials did not constitute a meeting at which official acts are to be taken or at which public business of such (collegial public) body is to be transacted or discussed.” Assistant State Attorney Phil Havens said the State is likely to seek an appellate review of the opinion. The 5th DCA denied the State's petition to reveiw the case in February 2006. (See also December 2002, July 2003, November 2003, and August 2005.)

JANUARY 2006: Former Ocoee city commissioner Danny Howell pleaded no contest to violating the Sunshine Law. He was fined $500 plus court costs for the civil infraction. Howell was also charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for allegedly violating the Sunshine Law, but prosecutors dropped that charge. The charges stem from a 2004 phone call to a fellow commissioner, where the two allegedly discussed a proposed real estate transaction that would come before the commission.

DECEMBER 2005: Former North Bay Village Commissioner Armand Abecassis pleaded no contest to two counts of violating the Sunshine Law. Abecassis, 67, was arrested in April 2004, along with then-Mayor Alan Dorne on charges they conspired to remove the city manager. As part of his plea deal for the second-degree misdemeanor charges, Abecassis received six months of probation, was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, pay court costs and make a $1,000 donation to the United Way. While on probation, Abecassis cannot seek or hold any public office or any form of public employment.

DECEMBER 2005: Ten members of the Polk County Opportunity Council Board of Directors appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to violating Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws. The charges stemmed from a monthly board meeting on Sept. 15 where the board retired to a conference room for a closed-to-the-public meeting, which lasted more than an hour. The State Attorney’s office investigated and filed civil charges that carry a maximum fine of $500. A hearing for the defendants’ motion to dismiss was scheduled for Jan. 26 and a trial has been scheduled for Feb. 22.

OCTOBER 2005: An investigation by Collier Deputy Manager Leo Ochs found that the Collier Productivity Committee violated the Sunshine Law when it asked Brad Boaz to leave the room during a public meeting. Boaz, of Barron Collier Partnership, was being considered to fill a vacancy on the committee. The Chamber of Commerce complained to county officials and also contended the Committee opposed the appointment of anyone with a full-time job. Upon the investigation, commissioners also decided to end the practice of ranking candidates it was considering for the position.

OCTOBER 2005: Four Pompano Beach city commissioners were charged with violating the state’s public meetings law. On June 4, 2004 Commissioners George Brummer, Kay McGinn, Lamar Fisher and Vice Mayor Susan Foster attended a breakfast with Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne to discuss a crime-reporting controversy. A complaint was filed with the State Attorney by city activist Ed Stanton, who found out about the meeting. If charged, the commissioners could face fines of $500 each.

OCTOBER 2005: An Ocoee city commissioner was charged with violating the state’s Public Records Law. Commissioner Danny Howell faces one second-degree misdemeanor count and one noncriminal infraction count for discussing potential city business privately with another commissioner. The charges stem from a 2004 phone call to fellow Commissioner Rusty Johnson, where the two allegedly discussed a proposed real estate transaction that was likely to come before the commission. If convicted, Howell could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for the misdemeanor charge. Johnson was not charged as a result of the incident.

AUGUST 2005: A noncriminal judgment against former Oak Hill City Commissioner Ron Mercer for violating the Sunshine Law was overturned by two circuit judges. Judges John Watson and Edwin Sanders vacated the November 2003 judgment and ordered Mercer’s $500 fine be returned. Mercer and fellow commissioner Bob Jackson reportedly had a private discussion about a mayoral appointment in January 2002. In a joint opinion, the judges found that “the brief exchange between the two officials did not constitute a meeting at which official acts are to be taken or at which public business of such (collegial public) body is to be transacted or discussed.” Assistant State Attorney Phil Havens said the State is likely to seek an appellate review of the opinion. (See also December 2002, July 2003, and November 2003)

MAY 2005: Four city commissioners were charged with violating the state’s Open Meetings Law after they met to discuss their investigation of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. State Attorney Michael Satz filed the non-criminal charges as a result of a June 2004 meeting in which the commissioners discussed their investigation into inflated crime statistics. The breakfast meeting with Sheriff Ken Jenne was held without notice and no minutes were taken, according to the charges. Vice Mayor Susan Foster and commissioners George Brummer, Lamar Fisher and Kay McGinn face $500 fines for the violation.

NOVEMBER 2003: Volusia County Judge Mary Jane Henderson imposed a noncriminal judgment against Oak Hill City Commissioner Ron Mercer for violating Florida’s Sunshine Law. He was fined $500. The judgment stems from a conversation between Mercer and another commissioner, Bob Jackson, in Jackson’s driveway in January 2002. The pair reportedly discussed the possible appointment of Jackson as mayor. (See also December 2002, July 2003, and August 2005)

OCTOBER 2003: A grand jury suggested that all eight members of the Cape Coral City Council take more training in the state’s open meetings laws. The grand jury found that two council members violated the Sunshine Law, but chose not to indict because it found there was no corrupt intent. The videotaped conversation about a proposed skate park took place between Mayor Arnold Kempe and Councilman Dick Stevens during a meeting break in July 2003.

AUGUST 2003: Two Flagler County School Board officials were fined $500 each for violating Florida’s Sunshine Law. Board Chairman Edward Herrera and board member Jim Guines faced the unintentional civil infractions for privately discussing a raise for their superintendent.

JULY 2003: In Deland, Oak Hill City Commissioner Bob Jackson pleaded no contest to charges that he violated the Open Meetings Law. Jackson has been ordered by a county court to pay $250 in fines, and to take a Sunshine Law class. Jackson was accused of illegally meeting with Commissioner Ron Mercer to discuss several issues scheduled to come before the commission.


JULY 2003: The charge was dropped against former Escambia County School Board member Vanette Webb, the first public official jailed for violating the state’s Open Records Law. Prosecutors chose not to pursue another trial against Webb, who was ordered to spend 30 days in jail after being found guilty of withholding a public record from a Pensacola mother. County Judge William White threw out Webb’s conviction after she had served seven days of the sentence. A state appeals court later reinstated the conviction. The case was eventually sent back to White, who granted Webb a new trial in March 2002. An appeals court upheld the order for a new trial. State Attorney Curtis Golden dropped the charge and told the Pensacola News-Journal he was satisfied with the outcome of the case. “Charges were dropped five years too late,” Webb wrote in an e-mail to the News-Journal. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” (See also May 1999, October 1999, November 1999, March 2001)


JULY 2003: Former Welaka town official Steve Richardson was found guilty of violating Florida’s Public Records Law. Richardson will not have a criminal record in the case, but he was ordered to pay a $150 fine. Richardson was accused of refusing to let two men inspect a sign-out sheet of recreational equipment, which according to the complaint, was accessible immediately.


JUNE 2003: Escambia County Commissioner W.D. Childers was sentenced to 60 days in jail, the maximum penalty for one count of violating the state’s Sunshine Law. Childers is the first elected official to be jailed for breaking the open meetings section of the law. Childers was also ordered to pay fines and court costs, totaling near $4,000.

MAY 2003: Welaka Mayor Gordon Sands pleaded no contest and paid a $500 fine after being charged last year with violating the Sunshine Law. The charge stems from a discussion Sands reportedly held with another town council member to discuss nominating council member Curtis Williams as council president at a public meeting. Prosecutors and defense attorney James McCune both asked County Judge Peter Miller to withhold adjudication, which means Sands will not have a criminal record. Miller equated Sand’s civil infraction to “a speeding ticket” and did not find him guilty.

MARCH 2003: Two Kissimmee city commissioners charged with violating the Sunshine Law after failing to notify the public about meetings accepted a deal to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges, a State Attorney’s Office official said. Commissioner Wendell McKinnon and former Commissioner Bob Makinson both made last minute pleas to avoid a criminal record. They pleaded guilty to civil violations, will face $50 fines and court costs and were cleared by the State Ethics Commission. (See also November 2002)


FEBRUARY 2003: The Lakeland Ledger filed suit against the Florida Department of Citrus, claiming that the department violated the Sunshine Law. The department has been accused of withholding records and closing meetings concerning a scientific generic citrus advertising study involving $190,000. The study is important, as it could potentially change the size and actions of the Citrus Department, a state agency.

FEBRUARY 2003: Circuit Judge Robert P. Cates issued a ruling declaring that a meeting of the Chiefland City Commission violated the Florida Sunshine Law. (See also February 2002)


DECEMBER 2002: Oak Hill City commissioners Ron Mercer and Bob Jackson pleaded not guilty to violating the Sunshine Law. The two men were accused of meeting privately and discussing city business, including the appointment of a mayor and department heads, over a seven-month span.


NOVEMBER 2002: Circuit Court Judge John Booth ruled that the Hernando County had violated the Sunshine Law by keeping the public from taking part in a meeting of the Development Review Committee in Brooksville. Booth ordered that future meetings be open to the public for all who want to participate.


NOVEMBER 2002: Two Kissimmee city commissioners were charged with violating Florida’s Open Meetings Law. Wendell McKinnon and Bob Makinson reportedly met in private and discussed their plans for a future public meeting. The civil charges carry fines of up to $500 each and a maximum of 60 days in jail. The commissioners, however, were only fined $50 each. (See March also 2003)


OCTOBER 2002: Welaka Mayor Gordon Sands was charged by the State Attorney’s Office with violating the Open Meetings Law. Sands was accused of meeting with former council member Shirley Gillins in 2000 in order to discuss votes for an upcoming public meeting. If found guilty, Sands may have to pay attorney’s fees and $500 in fines.


OCTOBER 2002: Belleair Beach Councilmember Frank Lombardi has been accused of breaking the Sunshine Law. According to council members Lynn Rives and Mary Jo Henderson, Lombardi attempted to discuss matters of new officers outside of official meetings. Rives filed the complaint the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County.


SEPTEMBER 2002: Three Escambia County Commissioners reached plea agreements in connection with charges of bribery and violating the Sunshine Law. Commissioner Willie Junior agreed to plead guilty to 12 charges including bribery and violation of the Sunshine Laws and agreed to testify against fellow commissioner W.D. Childers. Junior could have been sentenced up to 125 years in prison but will serve a maximum of 18 months in exchange for his testimony. Commissioner Mike Bass pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of violating the Sunshine Law. His felony counts were dropped. Bass must pay a $500 fine for each of the two counts and must pay investigative costs of around $3,000. Sentencing will occur after Bass testifies against Childers. Bass originally faced up to 70 years in prison, but after agreeing to testify his maximum possible jail sentence was reduced to 60 days. Commissioner Terry Smith was found guilty on two counts of violating the Sunshine Law. He was required to pay fines and court costs totaling $4,987 and was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. (See also June 2002, August 2002, June 2003, October 2004, December 2004)


AUGUST 2002: Escambia County commissioner and former state senator W.D. Childers was found guilty on one count of violating the state’s Open Meetings law. Childers stands accused of discussing public business with fellow commissioners in private on four separate occasions and conferring with fellow commissioners about redistricting. He was declared not guilty on two other Open Meetings counts. Childers was indicted on four misdemeanor Sunshine charges and felony counts of money laundering, bribery and unlawful compensation of a public official. The trial for his felony charges was set for March 2003. (See also June 2002, September 2002, June 2003, October 2004, December 2004)


AUGUST 2002: Daytona Beach’s community relations advisory panel met illegally, violating the Open Meetings Law, by not giving proper notice to the public. The council plans to “cure” the violation by holding the meeting once again, according to Chairman Tom Vogel.


JULY 2002: Clark V. Hoshall Jr. filed suit against Nassau County commissioners, alleging that they were holding meetings in secret for over four years. However, the commissioners did not violate the Public Records law, according to a lower court decision, which was upheld by the 1st District Court of Appeal.


JUNE 2002: Four Escambia County commissioners were arrested on multiple charges, including violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. Mike Bass, W.D. Childers, Willie J. Junior and Terry Smith were indicted and charged with multiple misdemeanor counts of violations of Florida’s Open Meetings Law. Each misdemeanor count is punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. (See also August 2002, September 2002, June 2003, October 2004, December 2004)


MARCH 2002: Ormond Beach commissioners Jeff Boyle, Joyce High and Jim Privett faced a lawsuit from The News-Journal Corporation, which accused the three of violating Florida’s laws concerning open government by illegally communicating about city business.


FEBRUARY 2002: Chiefland City Commissioner Sunshine Baynard filed a civil suit against the Chiefland City Commission for violating the Sunshine Law. Baynard claimed that an emergency meeting was held, without proper notification to the public, during which the Commission voted to postpone the search for a new Chiefland chief of police. (See also February 2003)


JULY 2001: Judge L. Haldane Taylor ruled that Nassau County officials did not violate the state’s Open Meetings and Public Records laws when making decisions concerning building a new courthouse in Yulee at meetings of which the public was not made aware. However, the judge did rule that the commissioners violated the Open Meetings Law when allowing Clerk of the Circuit Court J.M. Oxley Jr. to attend closed meetings.


MAY 2001: Chief Judge Sandra Taylor ruled that a Key Largo panel of wastewater experts, which helped select a company to build sewers in Key Largo, violated the state’s Open Meetings Law. Advertisements for the teleconferences were not made, and the $60 million project was discussed outside of a public meeting. The ruling voided the contract between Monroe County’s Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and Ogden Water Systems. Monroe County and Ogden appealed the ruling. Ten months later, Chief Circuit Judge Richard Payne ordered Monroe County to pay $26,285 to the local citizens group that successfully fought the Sunshine lawsuit.


APRIL 2001: A Lee County judge found County Planning Director Paul O’Connor not guilty of failing to disclose meetings with lobbyists. Prosecutors were unable to prove that O’Connor illegally spoke with a lobbyist. O’Connor reportedly ignored the county’s disclosure law repeatedly during the six years that he served as planning director.


APRIL 2001: The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office filed a civil action against Golden Beach town councilman Adalberto Paruas for violating Florida’s Open Meetings Law. The councilman had resident Oded Meltzer rejected from a committee meeting, during which the committee reviewed applications for the town clerk and manager positions. Paruas claimed he was not aware that the meeting was public. Meltzer sued Paruas for breaking the Sunshine Law. Beyond being responsible for $7,000 in legal fees, Paruas also settled to pay $500 in fines. Both sums will be paid by the town.


MARCH 2001: Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals reinstated a Public Records Law conviction against Escambia County School Board member Vanette Webb. Webb had originally been fined $1,000 for withholding records and sentenced to 11 months and 15 days in jail, which was suspended to 30 days. Escambia County Judge William White Jr. reversed Webb’s conviction after seven days in jail and allowed her to be reinstated to the school board. The 1st District Court of Appeals remanded the case back to Escambia County, saying that Webb admitted that the files she withheld were public records. (See also May 1999, October 1999, November 1999, July 2003)


DECEMBER 2000: A judge ruled that Martin County commissioners violated the Sunshine law by meeting in closed-door sessions to discuss possible legal action pending against the county. The Palm Beach Post filed the suit against the county, due to the fact that the commissioners met to discuss legal notices threatening potential lawsuits. The commissioners violated the law because the county was not a party to a lawsuit. The judge ordered the county to release written transcripts of the meetings, as well as pay the newspaper’s attorney fees.


DECEMBER 2000: Levy County commissioners admitted that they violated Florida’s Open Meeting Law twice in November. The first violation occurred when commissioners-elect spoke with Commissioner Lilly Rooks about a proposed board action, for which they apologized. The second violation happened at a citizens meeting, when road paving was discussed between citizens, Commissioner Don Foley and Commissioner-elect Tony Parker, for which they too apologized. State Attorney Bill Cervone said no investigation would result, as no complaints have been filed.


DECEMBER 2000: A circuit judge ruled that a Martin County elections supervisor violated election and public records laws when she allowed Republican Party members to take absentee ballot applications from her office. Elections Supervisor Peggy Robbins allowed the Republican Party members to fill in missing information, which is against Florida Statutes.

NOVEMBER 2000: State investigators determined that the late State Attorney Harry Coe attempted to destroy public records and filed false campaign reports. Coe’s attempts to destroy records on his laptop computer were violations of the state’s Public Records Law. The investigation began in July 2000 under the requests of Gov. Jeb Bush, shortly before Coe took his own life.


NOVEMBER 2000: Tampa Palms, a community development group, agreed to pay $40,000 in legal fees after deciding not to appeal a judge’s decision that the group violated the Open Meetings Law.


OCTOBER 2000: Allan J. Egbert, the head of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was cleared of allegations of a Public Records Law violation by a state investigation. Egbert was accused of destroying computerized records relating to a net restriction experiment, but there was not sufficient evidence to support these accusations, initiated by attorney J. Patrick Floyd.


OCTOBER 2000: The Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees will be paying almost $23,000 to two former board members to help them cover part of the cost of their Sunshine Law cases. Richard Ladrich and Allen Seed were indicted for violating the Open Meetings Law by discussing board business outside a public meeting. Each man had to pay $500. Their criminal charges were dropped, but they agreed to a civil charge.


SEPTEMBER 2000: The Florida Supreme Court ruled that an Escambia county comptroller, Joe Flowers, acted without proper authority from the county commission and violated the state’s Sunshine laws. Flowers contracted with Unisys Leasing Company for a $4.8 million computer lease purchase deal, which turned out to be for obsolete computers. Flowers pleaded no contest and resigned from office.


AUGUST 2000: Judge George A. Brescher dismissed portions of a civil lawsuit filed by Sawgrass Mills against the city of Sunrise. The city was accused of violating the Sunshine Law while negotiating the approval of a new mall. City Manager Pat Salerno met with his staff and negotiated privately with the Sunrise Land Group, but the judge ruled that there was sufficient public notice of the meeting and that it is not a violation of the Sunshine Law for executive staffs and private parties to meet.


JULY 2000: A private meeting held by the state Department of Management Services to evaluate competing bids by two telecommunication companies has prompted one of them, Motorola Inc., to file suit. Motorola claims that the meeting violated the Open Meetings Law. The suit aims at invalidating the department’s choice of negotiating with Com-Net over the $300 million contract.


MAY 2000: Allegations that the Monroe County Mosquito Control Commissioners violated the Sunshine Law were dismissed. According to a special prosecutor, there was no evidence backing the accusations that the commissioners broke the law when speaking to a state senator’s assistant.


MAY 2000: A Lee County commissioner was charged with violating a county law that requires government officials to disclose private meetings with lobbyists. Commissioner John Manning was investigated for meeting with lobbyists for years without filing disclosures of the meeting dates and times with the clerk’s office. Manning was one of the commissioners to approve this requirement 10 years ago. The commissioner also failed to file a list of his lobby contacts. Manning said he misinterpreted the requirement, and thought his executive assistant filed his disclosures. Manning received a 2nd-degree misdemeanor charge and was fined $1,000 as part of a plea agreement. He has since retired.


NOVEMBER 1999: An Escambia County School Board member who spent seven days in jail for Public Records Law violations before being acquitted by an appellate judge sued the school board to recover $188,000 in legal fees. In May, Vanette Webb was convicted of knowingly withholding public records from a parent, Susan Watson, who had been critical of Webb. (See also May 1999, October 1999, March 2001, July 2003)


OCTOBER 1999: Gov. Jeb Bush reinstated suspended Escambia School Board member Vanette Webb to her position on the board after a new judge reversed her conviction for violating the state Public Records Law. On appeal, Judge William White, 1st Judicial Circuit, reversed Webb's conviction, saying prosecutors failed to admit into evidence any public record she allegedly withheld from parent Susan Watson, who had been critical of Webb. The school district was ordered to pay Webb's legal fees, estimated at $30,000. After her conviction in May, Webb spent seven days in jail. (See also May 1999, November 1999, March 2001, July 2003)


JUNE 1999: A circuit court in Martin County sentenced Paul Curry to three years in prison for using public records to harass his former neighbor. A jury convicted Curry of stalking Jacqueline DiCarlo by performing multiple public document searches and filing complaints on her with various state agencies. Curry has appealed the decision.


MAY 1999: An Escambia County School Board member spent seven days in jail for violating Florida’s Public Records Law. Gov. Jeb Bush suspended Vanette Webb indefinitely from her position as board member, and Webb could face trial before the state Senate if she does not resign. Webb had argued that she could not turn over the requested documents because they contained confidential student information. Following Webb’s May 14 conviction, 1st Judicial Circuit Judge Pat Kinsey sentenced Webb to 11 months and 15 days in jail and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine for knowingly withholding public records from a parent who had been critical of Webb and her politics. However, Judge Kinsey suspended all but 30 days of the sentence. Judge William White, who took over the case, released Webb on a $2,000 bond pending her appeal and suspended the rest of her sentence. (See also October 1999, November 1999, March 2001, July 2003)


MAY 1999: Non-criminal charges against three Tallahassee state Department of Health officials were dropped in exchange for the health department revising its grievance policy. Phil Reeves, Sharon Heber and William Reinhold were charged with violating Florida’s Open Meetings Law when they conducted a grievance hearing for a Collier County employee. The state agency admitted no wrongdoing.


OCTOBER 1998: A St. Lucie County commissioner was arrested after allegedly directing employees to illegally obtain computerized voter rolls, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Former County Commissioner Ken Sattler was charged with computer theft, a felony, and violating state election codes, a misdemeanor. The two employees he directed to get the voter rolls were also charged. Bob Searl, director of automated services, and William Klimovich, a systems analyst, got the names and addresses of all voters in St. Lucie County for Sattler. Sattler admitted to the FDLE that he had asked the county employees to get the records, bypassing the records custodian, because it was taking too long for the custodian to fill his records request. Sattler, who resigned his position as county commissioner after his arrest, and Klimovich admitted to illegally accessing the records, according to the FDLE. Klimovich told the FDLE in an affidavit that he accessed and copied the records out of friendship and the possibility of career advancement. Sattler used the voter rolls to send political fliers to Republicans in his failed bid for re-election in October.


MARCH 1998: An administrator for the Department of Environmental Protection has been charged with violating Florida’s Open Records Law. Bobby Cooley, regional director for the DEP in Pensacola, is accused of violating the law by requiring records requesters to surrender driver’s licenses or other forms of identification while viewing public records. State Attorney Curtis Golden’s office filed the civil complaint against Cooley because according to Florida law and attorney general opinions, a records custodian may not require identification as a condition of access to public records.


SEPTEMBER 1997: Lee County Judge Edward Volz fined former Estero Fire Commissioner Vernon Conly $500 after a jury convicted Conly of violating the Open Meetings Law. Judge Volz fined three other members of the Fire Commission $250 after the three -- Georgia Gates, George Horne and John Kelley -- pleaded no contest to a similar criminal misdemeanor charge. Volz withheld formal adjudication of guilt for all four commissioners, who in return promised not to seek reinstatement to the Fire Commission. Gov. Lawton Chiles suspended the four from office after they were charged with violating the Open Meetings Law in connection with an April meeting. Members of the public filed complaints against the commissioners after a public meeting that lasted only a few minutes. Spectators at the meeting said the commissioners called the meeting to order, voted to purchase two vehicles, and adjourned before most members of the public could get into the meeting room and get seated. The room was locked until just before the meeting was called to order.


JUNE 1997: The City of Opa-Locka paid a $500 fine, $108 in court costs and made a $500 donation to United Way after former City Manager Earnie Neal pleaded guilty to violating the state's Public Records Law. Neal said he ignored 35 records requests from his predecessor as city manager, Dennis Whitt, because the requests were frivolous and amounted to harassment. Whitt, who was suing the city for wrongful termination, wanted Neal's cellular telephone records and copies of any ethics complaints against Neal. Neal resigned in May after state investigators said he withheld the records and sexually harassed employees.


MAY 1997: The Florida Supreme Court removed a Broward County judge from office for falsifying public records. In a 5-2 vote, the justices removed County Judge LaRan Johnson for back-dating records in 42 to 57 DUI cases in order to reduce her caseload. The court said the falsification of the records affected mandatory driver's license suspensions. In some cases, the records of guilty pleas were back-dated so far that the suspensions would have ended before the actual hearing date, giving some drivers no actual suspensions at all, said the court. Judge Johnson said she had an otherwise unblemished judicial record. She sought a public reprimand instead of removal and admitted she erred in falsifying the records.


MAY 1997: Gov. Lawton Chiles removed four members of the Estero Fire Commission from office after the State Attorney's Office charged them with misdemeanor violations of the Open Meetings Law. The board members allegedly failed to allow the public into the meeting room in time to take their seats before an April board meeting began. The board took one vote and adjourned before many of the spectators could enter the room, witnesses said. A judge issued an injunction requiring the board to obey the Open Meetings Law. The commissioners pleaded not guilty to the charges.


MARCH 1996: Dade Metro Commission Chairman Arthur Teele Jr. agreed not to contest a civil Open Meetings Law charge and to pay a $250 fine. The State Attorney's Office alleged that Teele met secretly in 1994 with commissioners Bruce Kaplan and Maurice Ferre, who paid fines in 1995 to settle similar charges against them. (See also August 1995)


JANUARY 1996: The State Attorney's Office charged Bartow County Supervisor Emily Burgner with an unintentional Public Records Law violation after a former county employee claimed that the county took three months to produce public records he requested. The violation carries a fine of up to $500, but no jail time.


AUGUST 1995: Two Dade County commissioners agreed to pay fines stemming from civil charges of Open Meetings Law violations. Bruce Kaplan agreed to pay $500 and Maurice Ferre agreed to pay $250 to settle charges that they met secretly in December to discuss the selection of a new county manager. Ferre offered an apology for meeting with Kaplan. Kaplan denied that the meeting with Ferre and commission Chair Arthur Teele Jr. constituted a violation. However, he acknowledged a lack of judgment and agreed to pay the fine so that he could put the matter behind him. (See also June 1996)


MARCH 1995: On the eve of his scheduled trial, Kenneth City Mayor Harold Paxton pleaded no contest to violations of the Open Meetings Law. Paxton was fined $400 in court costs. The charges stemmed from six closed meetings that Paxton allegedly attended in 1991 and 1992 regarding city construction projects. Paxton attended six of a dozen meetings that were neither advertised nor open to the public where council members approved about $8,000 in improvements to the town hall and police department building.


JANUARY 1993: Hernando County School Board members Susan Cooper, Paul Clemmons, Nancy Gordon and Leland McKeown pleaded no contest to charges of violating the Open Meetings Law. As part of their plea agreements, they agreed to study the Sunshine Law. (See also August 1992, December 1992)


DECEMBER 1992: A Hernando County judge found Hernando County School Board member Diane Rowden guilty of one misdemeanor count of violating the Open Meetings Law. She was fined $322 and ordered to pay court costs and spend four hours reading the Government-in-the Sunshine Manual. Rowden pleaded no contest to the other 12 misdemeanor and 2 non-criminal charges during her trial. Governor Lawton Chiles removed Rowden from office, but changed his order to a suspension after the Florida Supreme Court said he did not have authority to remove her from office. Subsequently, the Florida Senate voted in March 1994 not to reinstate Rowden. (See also August 1992, January 1993)


AUGUST 1992: A grand jury indicted the entire Hernando County School Board for multiple alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law occurring over a two-year span. Member Diane Rowden was charged with 13 criminal and two non-criminal charges. Member Susan Cooper was charged with five criminal and two non-criminal charges. Member Paul Clemmons was charged with one criminal and one non-criminal violation. Members Nancy Gordon and Leland McKeown were charged with non-criminal counts. (See also December 1992, January 1993)


MAY 1992: The 17th Judicial Circuit Court dismissed the Sunshine Law violation charge against former Hollywood City Attorney Maria Chiaro. The court reversed the adjudication and fine and concluded that Chiaro was not acting as a Sunshine Law "public officer" in this case and that no meeting was held that was subject to the Sunshine Law. (See also January 1991)


SEPTEMBER 1991: Seven Sumter County Board of Adjustment members, three Big Corkscrew island fire commissioners and two former Center Hill City Commission members were charged with violating the Open Meetings Law. Charges against five of the 12 accused were dropped when the fire commissioners and former council members agreed to study the law and perform 5-10 hours of community service.


MAY 1991: Sunshine Law violation charges were dropped against eight members of a Eustis advisory committee after they agreed to spend four hours studying the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual.


APRIL 1991: Seven Highlands County officials pleaded no contest to non-criminal Sunshine Law violations. Four county commissioners and a former commissioner were charged with hiring a county attorney by secret ballot. One commissioner and two county administrators were charged with holding a secret meeting to double the county attorney's salary. Adjudication of guilt was withheld, and each defendant paid $25 in court costs.


JANUARY 1991: Broward County Judge Harvey Ford fined former Hollywood City Attorney Maria Chiaro $500 after finding her guilty of a non-criminal infraction of the Sunshine Law at the conclusion of a non-jury trial. Ford found that Chiaro was the "architect of a plan" to keep the public from decisions made for the acquisition of a new arts center. Chiaro helped the mayor form a group to recommend a site for the center. A group formed to advise decision-makers is subject to the Sunshine Law. The private meeting to consider the site was attended by Chiaro, the mayor, the city manager, other city employees and committee volunteers. Prosecutors said they charged only Chiaro because she advised them that the group could legally meet in private. (See also May 1992)


NOVEMBER 1990: Sixteen city leaders, including officials, employees and volunteers, in Mount Dora pleaded no contest to 24 counts of Sunshine Law violations. The charges stemmed from a complaint aired during a public meeting about the selection process for engineering contractors. Prosecutors split the 16 defendants into two groups: City Manager Dennis Finch and nine other city employees and elected officials "reasonably should have known and in fact did know" about the Sunshine Law. Lake County Judge William Law withheld adjudication and assessed a fine of $25 or 25 hours of community service for each count. Law also ordered the officials and employees to spend four hours reading the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual or the fine would increase to $400 per count. He also assessed $125 in court costs. The officials and employees included Finch (five counts); council members Faye Brooks (two counts) and Nancy Duxbury; former council members R. J. Johnson and Tony Segreto (two counts); Community Development Director Ken Harley; employee Dennis Huett; Recreation Director Judy Smathers; Utility Director Art Womble; and former public works director James P. Snell. The other six defendants were committee volunteers. They were to complete the four hours of study and perform five hours of community service per count in exchange for prosecutors dropping the charges against them.


AUGUST 1990: Four Minneola city officials who met privately to discuss management polices of the public works department were convicted of violating the Sunshine Law. Mayor May Griffith and council members Donald Felt, Jerry Purvis and Harold Croncich pleaded no contest to a non-criminal charge and were fined $400 each. Lake County Judge Richard Boylston suspended all but $25 of each of their fines on the condition they study the Sunshine Law for four hours, including reading the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual.


FEBRUARY 1990: Three Hernando County Planning and Zoning Board members pleaded no contest to violating the Sunshine Law and were fined $50 each plus court costs. Board members Robert Bubb, Oscar Zullo and Virginia Brown-Waite met with state Rep. Chuck Smith, D-Brooksville, in October 1989 to discuss state regulation of hazardous waste burning. Assistant State Attorney Jim McClure said Smith was not charged because he was not a member of the board and because evidence indicated the legislator was unaware the board had voted to look into hazardous waste regulations.


OCTOBER 1989: Former Longwood Deputy Mayor Lynette Dennis and City Commissioner Rick Bullington were found guilty in separate Seminole County jury trials of violating the Sunshine Law by discussing city business at a secret meeting. Each was fined $500, placed on probation for 60 days and ordered to perform 25 hours of community service. They also were assessed court costs. During the trials, Dennis and Bullington testified that the unannounced meeting, also attended by former Mayor David Gunter and former City Administrator Gene DeMarie, dealt entirely with political matters. Gunter and DeMarie, however, testified that the proposed acquisition of a utility system and other city business were discussed. Bullington, who was still in office and was seeking re-election, was suspended by the governor. Gunter earlier pleaded no contest to related charges.


JULY 1989: Former Longwood Mayor David Gunter was fined $500 for violating the Sunshine Law. Gunter pleaded no contest on June 30, 1989, to charges he "knowingly attended a meeting at which official acts were taken." Gunter subsequently testified against two other Longwood officials, who were convicted in separate jury trials.


JUNE 1989: Fernandina Beach Mayor Ronnie Sapp and City Commissioner Dale Dees, who had discussed by telephone who would be the town's next mayor, were found guilty by a judge of violating the state Sunshine Law. Sapp, cited for three civil violations of the Sunshine Law, pleaded not guilty. Dees, cited for two violations, pleaded guilty. Both were assessed $26 in court costs and ordered to organize and attend seminars for local officials about the Sunshine Law.


DECEMBER 1988: Two St. Augustine Beach city commissioners, Mary Stallings and Valerie Kroll, were convicted of Sunshine violations related to two radio-telephone calls during which they discussed city business. Six misdemeanor charges related to the two telephone conversations were filed. Stallings, whose commission term had since expired, pleaded no contest to two of the misdemeanor charges and was placed on probation for six months. Kroll pleaded no contest to two civil charges of violating the Sunshine Law and was fined $250 on each charge, plus court costs. Additional misdemeanor charges against Kroll were dropped. Both Kroll and Stallings were suspended by the governor.


SEPTEMBER 1988: Former Polk County Undersheriff John Simpson was fined $250 after pleading no contest to charges of intentionally withholding public records. Polk County Judge Dick Price entered a formal adjudication of guilt against Simpson on the charge, a second-class misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Simpson earlier resigned from the Polk County Sheriff's Department after admitting he omitted the name of a special deputy appointee from a list requested by three newspapers.


NOVEMBER 1987: Ten Auburndale city officials pleaded no contest to charges of violating the state Sunshine Law and paid fines ranging from $25 to $125. All were members of the city's Police Pension Retirement Board, which had met without public notice and awarded a former police chief $81,000 in disability benefits. State Attorney Jerry Hill said he found no criminal intent on the part of the pension board members.


APRIL 1984: Former Bradenton City Clerk Wallie Eyman was convicted of destroying public records sought by a local newspaper, a criminal violation of the state Public Records Law. The clerk was charged with one count of refusing to allow inspection of public records and two counts of destroying public records. Eyman pleaded no contest to one count of destroying public records and was sentenced to three months probation.


DECEMBER 1980: Gov. Bob Graham suspended Waldo City Councilmen Carl Beggs and Manuel Youngblood after they were found guilty by an Alachua County jury in October 1980 of violating the state Sunshine Law. The councilmen were found guilty of one charge of illegally meeting with the town's attorney. Both were later fined $10 each by County Judge Nath Doughtie.


SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1979: Five present and former Reddington Shores city commissioners were fined a total of $1,150 on charges of violating the state Sunshine Law and interfering with an election. The charges resulted from a secret meeting among the town's mayor and four commissioners at which a letter was written that criticized a candidate in a pending election. The letter, signed by the five, was mailed at public expense.


AUGUST 1978: Former Indian Harbor Beach Mayor Jerry James pleaded no contest in Brevard County Court to violating the state Sunshine Law. He was fined $500 and sentenced to six months probation. Judge Daniel Citak suspended half of the fine and prohibited James from holding office during probation.


OCTOBER 1977: Two Glades County commissioners and the former commission chairman were found guilty of violating the state Sunshine Law and fined $500 apiece. They also were sentenced to 60 days in jail, which was suspended. Convicted by Lee County Judge William Nelson of conspiring to hold a special commission meeting without giving public notice were: Commission Chairman Charles Hall, Commissioner John Langdale and former Commission Chairman Joseph Peeples. They are believed to be the first persons convicted under the state Sunshine Law.

Does City of St. Augustine City Commission Resemble "Senate of Trusts" Cartoon?



Commissioner Crichlow has a lot of explaining to do.

Commissioner Crichlow is an architect for developers.

Commissioner Crichlow represents clients before City boards, with an intimidation factor affecting appointed Board members whose decisions are appealed to the Commission.

Commissioner Crichlow pushed in 2003 to pass an illegal resolution that on architectural styles.

Commissioner Crichlow pushed in 2009 to use the illegal resolution to allow an abortion of a modern building across from our historic Cathedral, Government House and the Plaza de la Constitucion. Commissioner Crichlow and his crummy client lost 4-0 (Commissioner Crichlow had recused himself, but mouthpiece George McClure kept smarmily invoking Commissioner Crichlow's name).

Now Commissioner Crichlow is fixin' to attend a "mediation" with the City on behalf of the developer, working side-by-side and hand-in-hand with George McClure. See below.

Some conclusions:

1. A person cannot serve two masters (Matthew).
2. Commissioner Crichlow must resign.
3. Commissioner Crichlow must be investigated by law enforcement.
4. This not-so-subtle corruption of our government is indefensible and must be ended at once.
5. Commissioners must represent the people, not the greedy and seedy.

Hotel developer sues city -- Style of building is sticking point


Deeply conflicted City Commissioner DONALD W. CRICHLOW

GEORGE McCLURE, developer's mouthpiece

That's DONALD CRICHLOW on the right and City Manager WILIAM B. HARRIS on the left

PETER GUINTA
peter.guinta@staugustine.com
Publication Date: 07/16/09

A St. Augustine developer who requested a zoning change to build a hotel and retail shops at 180 St. George St. filed a civil lawsuit against the city this week because the commission did not like the style of architecture he chose.

City commissioners voted 4-0 against it.

The fifth commissioner, Don Critchlow (sic), is the architect for the project and did not participate in the commission discussion or vote on the application.

Gaspit Schechter wants a circuit court judge to declare the June 8 vote invalid, claiming that he will "suffer material injury (due to) the Commission's failure to afford (him) due process, apply the correct law and to act without competent and substantial evidence."

Schechter's proposed 17,300-square-foot, two-story brick building would be a small hotel with retail shops along both St. George Street and Cathedral Place on the site of the Bank of America parking lot.

His architectural choice was turn of the century, but the city would prefer First Spanish Colonial.

City Attorney Ron Brown will lead a three-man team of city officials who'll address Schechter's claims at an upcoming mediation.

The city team also includes Mark Knight, director of Planning and Building, and Mayor Joe Boles.

In Schechter's corner will be St. Augustine attorney George McClure, of McClure Bloodworth, and Critchlow (sic)). He'll represent only his client at this mediation, not the city.

Brown said Wednesday that any mediation will be informal. A judge will rule on whether or not Schechter's lawsuit is legally sufficient, and if so will issue an order to show cause, he said.

The city has 20 days to respond.

"We'll see if we can work out (an architectural) style that might work for the city," Brown said. "If they do, it will have to come before the City Commission for a review and a vote."

The initial rezoning application was filed Feb. 6.

"On March 3, the city Planning and Zoning Board conducted a public hearing and unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning," the lawsuit said.

The commission decided April 27 that the application should first be reviewed by the Historic Architecture Review Board, where it was approved. Usually that indicates final approval of the commission is expected.

But the commission brought it to a vote in June, where it was denied.

Members of the public felt that the city should mandate First Spanish in that district rather than rely on a 2003 city resolution that allows the builder to choose styles that are nearby.

McClure argued that Schechter's building would be adjacent to another turn of the century structure, the McCrory's building, fulfilling the 2003 ordinance, which was in effect at the time.

The last structure on the property was built in 1897 and was called the Bishop's Building. It was a commercial brick structure built by the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine as an investment property.

It was torn down in the 1960s.

Opponents of the application argued that the city's Historic Preservation 2 district limits the size and configuration of structures to First Spanish.

The lawsuit concludes, "The city's justification for the denial of the rezoning was a public demand for maintaining a particular architectural style. There was no evidence in the record as to the legitimate public purpose in denying the application."

Brown said Schechter wants windows for window shopping. First Spanish, however, did not have large street windows.

Brown said the issue will be worked out.

"For whatever reason, St. Augustine has been named one of the 10 most livable cities in the country," he said. "We must be doing something more right than not."

Click here to return to story:
http://www.staugustine.com/stories/071609/news_1749293.shtml

© The St. Augustine Record

Herald Tribune: State examines Sunshine case

Printed on page BN1
State examines Sunshine case

By Kim Hackett

Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.

Florida's top law law enforcement agency is investigating whether Venice officials may have criminally violated the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

Nine current and former city officials are defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging that they violated Florida's open-meetings laws.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is "monitoring" that suit and "in communication with the State Attorney's Office," spokeswoman Heather Smith said Friday.

"We've done some preliminary assessments" in the case, Smith said.

Calling it an "ongoing investigation," Smith would not release the complaint behind the review or confirm which city officials the FDLE had targeted. The Herald-Tribune submitted a public records request for the information but did not receive a response Friday.

It is not clear why the FDLE denied that there had been a complaint several times last year and as recently as December.

The FDLE complaint was filed about a month after Sarasota activist Anthony Lorenzo filed his civil lawsuit alleging that city officials routinely sent private e-mails on city business and destroyed public documents by not saving them.

The officials have denied wrongdoing and sought to have the case dismissed. A trial is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Dale Scott, who is defending the city officials in the civil case, said he was not aware of the criminal investigation and said that there was no basis for it.

"There is no evidence of purposeful violations," he said.

The difference between a civil and a criminal Sunshine Law violation is whether someone intentionally and knowingly broke the law.

In the civil case, Lorenzo is asking that any city action taken in violation of the Sunshine Law be set aside.

In a criminal case, penalties vary from fines to jail time. In rare cases, the governor can call for an official to be removed from office.

"It does not happen that often," said Adria Harper, director of the First Amendment Foundation. "Sometimes it is difficult to piece together" that the officials knew the law and violated it anyway.

Lorenzo's attorney said she was surprised by the FDLE investigation and has not had any contact with the agency.

"It has nothing to do" with our case, said Andrea Mogensen.

This story appeared in print on page BN1

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FISHY FISH ISLAND MEETING ILLEGAL: Knowing Violations of Florida Sunshine Law by City of St. Augustine CIty Commission on Fish Island Case

Commissioners were told by attorney Ralf Brookes before they met in a Shade Meeting that pre-suit notice under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Protection Act does not constitute litigation.

Hence, the "Shade Meeting" held on Fish Island was illegal. It was also crime, because it was a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law.

The Floria Department of Law Enforcements (FDLE) has been alerted to this criminal Sunshine Law violation.

Will these City Commissioners be prosecuted? Or will this case be "fixed?"

You tell me.

See below for full text of two State Attorney General opinions.

It is time to get tough on white collar "Crime in the Suites" here in our Nation's Oldest City. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said our City government was the "most lawless" City in America. It is time the rule of law was enforced by the State's Attorney's Office (SAO) against lawbreakers in local governments.

State Attorney General on criminal violations for knowing Sunshine Law violations

Number: AGO 2001-84
Date: December 13, 2001
Subject: Sunshine Law penalties, school advisory committee

Mr. John Clapper, III
Collier County School Board Attorney
850 Park Shore Drive
Trianon Center–Third Floor
Naples, Florida 34103

RE: GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE LAW–SCHOOLS–PENALTIES– school advisory committee members subject to criminal penalties for knowing violations of Sunshine Law. s. 286.011, Fla. Stat.

Dear Mr. Clapper:

On behalf of the Collier County School Board, you ask substantially the following question:

Are members of school advisory councils, which are created pursuant to section 229.58, Florida Statutes, subject to the criminal penalties imposed for violations of the Government in the Sunshine Law?

In sum:

Members of school advisory councils, which are created pursuant to section 229.58, Florida Statutes, are subject to the criminal penalties imposed for knowingly violating the Government in the Sunshine Law.

Section 229.58(1)(a), Florida Statutes, provides that a district school board "shall establish an advisory council for each school in the district, and shall develop procedures for the election and appointment of advisory council members." The statute further states that the school advisory council "shall be the sole body responsible for final decisionmaking at the school relating to implementation of the provisions of ss. 229.591, 229.592, and 230.23(16)."[1] Subsection (2) of section 229.58 provides:

"Duties.--Each advisory council shall perform such functions as are prescribed by regulations of the school board; however, no advisory council shall have any of the powers and duties now reserved by law to the school board. Each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation and evaluation of the school improvement plan required pursuant to s. 230.23(16). By the 1999-2000 academic year, with technical assistance from the Department of Education, each school advisory council shall assist in the preparation of the school's annual budget and plan as required by s. 229.555(1). A portion of funds provided in the annual General Appropriations Act for use by school advisory councils must be used for implementing the school improvement plan."

Pursuant to section 286.011(1), Florida Statutes, "[a]ll meetings of any board or commission of any state agency or authority or of any agency or authority of any county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision, except as otherwise provided in the Constitution, at which official acts are to be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, and no resolution, rule, or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken or made at such meeting."

In determining the applicability of the Government in the Sunshine Law, the courts have stated that it was the intent of the Legislature to extend application of the law so as to bind "every 'board or commission' of the state or of any county or political subdivision over which it has dominion or control."[2] Advisory boards whose powers are limited only to making recommendations to a public agency and which possess no authority to bind that agency in any way are subject to the Sunshine Law.[3]

Section 229.58, Florida Statutes, provides for the establishment of school advisory councils and prescribes, in part, their duties. In addition, the councils receive state funding. In light of the above, this office has previously stated that such a council constitutes a "board or commission" subject to the provisions of section 286.011, Florida Statutes.[4]

Section 286.011(3), Florida Statutes, prescribes certain criminal and noncriminal penalties for violations of the Sunshine Law. Subsection (3) of section 286.011 provides:

"(a) Any public officer who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by fine not exceeding $500.[5]

(b) Any person who is a member of a board or commission or of any state agency or authority of any county, municipal corporation or political subdivision who knowingly violates the provisions of this section by attending a meeting not held in accordance with the provisions hereof is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(c) Conduct which occurs outside the state which would constitute a knowing violation of this section is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or 775.083."

As discussed above, a school advisory council, created pursuant to the provisions of section 229.58, Florida Statutes, is subject to section 286.011, Florida Statutes. Since a school advisory council constitutes a "board or commission" subject to the Sunshine Law, the criminal penalties prescribed in section 286.011(3)(b) and (c) for members of a "board or commission" who knowingly attend a meeting of the council not held in accordance with section 286.011 would also be applicable to members of the school advisory councils.[6]

Accordingly, I am of the opinion that members of school advisory councils, which are created pursuant to section 229.58, Florida Statutes, are subject to the criminal penalties for knowingly violating the Government in the Sunshine Law.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Butterworth
Attorney General

RAB/tzg

------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Sections 229.591, 229.292, and 230.23(16), Fla. Stat., relate to school improvement and education accountability.

[2] See, Times Publishing Company v. Williams, 222 So. 2d 470, 473 (Fla. 2d DCA 1969).

[3] See, Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974).

[4] See, Inf. Op. to the Honorable Robert W. Hughes, dated February 17, 1995, stating that school advisory committees are subject to the Sunshine Law. The Department of Education has reached a similar conclusion that these committees are subject to s. 286.011, Fla. Stat. See, Ops. Dept. Educ. Fla. 92-015 (1992) and 92-064 (1992).

[5] See, Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 91-38 (1991) (state attorney may pursue such actions on behalf of state).

[6] And see, Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-21 (1998) in which this office concluded that the directors of nonprofit corporation's board of directors acting on behalf of a hospital district constitute "public officers" as that term is used in section 286.011(3)(a), Fla. Stat.
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Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press: Former senator loses appeal over Sunshine Law violation, going to jail

Former senator loses appeal over Sunshine Law violation

Oct. 13, 2004 -- A former Florida Senate president's conviction and 60-day jail sentence for violating Florida's Sunshine Law as a county commissioner was upheld Thursday by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal. W.D. Childers, convicted by a jury in 2002 after he discussed public business in private with a fellow Escambia County commissioner, has already served 38 days of his sentence, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Florida's Sunshine Law requires that meetings between two or more members of the same elected or appointed board or commission be held in public with notice given and minutes taken.

A grand jury indicted all but one of the county commissioners on charges of violating the Sunshine Law, said Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore.

Elmore said the appellate panel's unwritten decision could indicate that the issue is over.

"I can't read the minds of the District Court," he said. "I have to assume they would consider any new approach taken in a rehearing. It simply appears to me the fact they didn't [write an opinion] pretty well indicates that it's laid to rest."

Childers' attorney, Richard Lubin of West Palm Beach, said his client, who served in the Florida Legislature for 30 years, is not in jail and hopes not to have to return to jail.

"I just signed my motion for a rehearing," Lubin said. "This case has a long history. It has to do with a public official charged with violating a Sunshine Law and the question of if can you express opinion to other officials if there isn't an opinion issued back."

The revelation of a Sunshine Law violation came as a result of a criminal investigation by the state attorney's office into corruption allegations on the Escambia Board of County Commissioners, Elmore said.

"As that investigation went forward, the violations of the Sunshine Law surfaced," he said.

"In all likelihood, our office will try to get [the judge] to set a hearing to send [Childers] to the sheriff's office to serve out the rest of his sentence," he added. "I found it very interesting in the appeal that the First Amendment Foundation filed an amicus brief, and I thought it was a very good brief. It all turned out about as I expected it would."

The First Amendment Foundation works to ensure free speech and open government in Florida.

(Childers v. Florida) -- CB