Somebody once said, “Every family is dysfunctional,but none of them know it.”
That quote is doubly true for most political bodies. The current case in point is the Tallahassee City Commission.
Simmering concerns over the long-hinted, never-official retirement of City Manager Anita Favors Thompson bubbled up at a meeting Wednesday, then boiled over in a series of emails that zipped between commissioners through Friday.
“Please stop sending these emails…,” implored Commissioner Nancy Miller, expressing concern that a string started by Mayor Andrew Gillum should have been conducted in the sunshine.
Obviously, this is a complicated issue and there are subplots galore.
And while we are not going to weigh in on the timing of Favors Thompson’s departure, we can state a few things quite clearly: First, the commission shouldtread carefully with email exchanges such as the one that emerged on Friday. This was clearly conducting business by email, and just because it eventually came to light does not liberate the commission from its responsibilities to the public under Florida’s Sunshine Law. As the initiator of the exchange – and the elected head of the city – Mayor Gillum should hold the city to a higher standard when it comes to abiding by the state’s sunshine requirements.
Second, Friday’s emails reveal a level of angst and discomfort among at least some of the commissioners that needs to be addressed. Given the restrictions on private communications, these issues should be worked through in the view of the public.
Remember, the state’s open meetings law is not meant to inhibit private discussion — it is meant to encourage public discussion! If commissioners are frustrated by something going on in the government or within the commission itself, the public should be included in that discussion and the solutions eventually reached.
Third, it is obvious that the issue of Favors Thompson’s tenure is vital to at least two, maybe more of the commissioners. While there are no rules about how retirements should be scheduled or announced, generally speaking, clarity is always preferable to ambiguity. The commission should move as quickly as possible to address this issue. Given the importance of her position, it seems fair for Favors Thompson to provide a clear answer to the commission – to whom she reports – about her future plans. From there, commissioners can decide how to respond.
While dysfunction isn’t always pretty, it is a reality. Ultimately families are not defined by their dysfunction, but by how they deal with it.
That means city leadership has an opportunity to turn this dust-up into something positive that will enhance, rather than erode, public trust.
Original article here.