Tampa Bay Times by C.T. Bowen
September 28, 2020
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp lined up a special guest for her virtual fundraiser Wednesday evening — another Hillsborough commissioner.
Commissioner Mariella Smith is scheduled to appear at a Zoom gathering that is billed as a virtual fundraiser with south county friends. Participants receive a link to attend in exchange for a contribution to Kemp’s campaign.
The joint appearance by two elected commissioners, however, raised questions about potentially skirting Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law prohibiting elected officials from having private discussions of pending public business.
Smith and Kemp are both Democrats elected countywide. Kemp’s re-election is being challenged by Republican Commissioner Sandy Murman, who must leave her District 1 seat after 10 years because of term limits.
Initially, an invitation characterized the evening as a “virtual roundtable” on south county “development.” A revised invitation went out within a few hours last week removing both “roundtable” and “development” from the notice.
Portions of the south county are under a new development moratorium. Providing adequate transportation, schools, infrastructure, public safety and job opportunities in the fast-growing area is a frequent public policy debate on the commission and a primary issue in the Kemp-Murman race.