Lee County school board opens private meetings to public

News-Press by Thyrie Bland

July 31, 2018

The Lee County school board decided Tuesday that it will allow the public to attend meetings that it has been holding in private for more than a year.

The board started having the private meetings in April 2017. They were held after the board’s regular meetings in a break room at the Public Education Center. Board members would discuss what they liked and didn’t like about their public meetings during the private meetings.

“I think that public perception is critical, so I think doing it in a place that allows for people to come and observe is probably the best thing that we can do at this point,” board member Mary Fischer said.

School boards and other public bodies in Florida are required under Florida’s Sunshine Law to meet in public when they discuss any matters that could come before the boards for a vote. The state’s Constitution guarantees the public the right to access meetings of any collegial public body in which “official acts are to be …  transacted or discussed.”

The school board and its attorney argue that the private meetings are legal under the law because board members are not discussing things during the meetings that could come before the board for a vote.

“Personally, I don’t believe anybody was thinking about anything being secret,” board member Pamela LaRiviere said.

“However, public perception is very important and very critical.”

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