Key Biscayne by Susan Candiotti
April 27, 2021
Key Biscayne’s mayor says as soon as tonight’s meeting, the Village Council might reverse course about blocking any reporter from personally attending its so-called hybrid meetings. The statement comes as two statewide journalism groups wrote to the Council saying the Village was violating Florida’s Sunshine Law.
“It will be on the agenda,” says Mayor Mike Davey. “I’d prefer to have reporters…and I’ll be asking the question,” he adds.
The mayor says he’s aware that Florida Sunshine statutes require the media be allowed to attend public meetings.
“I think it’s a fair point,” says Davey.
The Florida First Amendment Foundation, an advocacy group promoting access for the media and public, sent a letter to Mayor Davey April 8th. It took issue with the Council’s expulsion of Key Biscayne Independent reporter Tony Winton from Council Chambers just before the start of the April 6th hybrid meeting.
“The exclusion of the press violates not only the Sunshine law, it also violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, by infringing on on the freedom of the press,“ the letter states, adding “especially when access to chambers is being limited to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
Five council members were in the chamber and two others attended remotely, following an October vote to let the mayor set rules for hybrid meetings. The move came after a decision Nov. 1 by Gov. Ron DeSantis to rescind permission for virtual government meetings.
Winton was ejected before the meeting despite being the only reporter present. . At the time, some council members asked why Winton could not remain.
Winton said he came to the meeting in person because of accusations of corruption in the selection process for a new Village manager. Council Member Luis Lauredo claimed Mar. 30 there was a “conspiracy” to promote Interim Manager Charles Press as the permanent manager. The charge roiled the Council and led to a public “sunshine” meeting between Lauredo and Council Member Brett Moss, who had suggested Press as a possible candidate. The April 5th sunshine meeting in Council chambers was open to the public and several community members attended in person.