Pensacola News Journal by Jim Little
October 23, 2017
Despite a letter from Sheriff David Morgan questioning the legality of a board of county commission “shade meeting” to discuss his budget appeal, commissioners voted 4-0 to hold the closed-door meeting.
Shortly after the shade meeting got underway, Commission Chairman Doug Underhill excused himself from the meeting because he said he did not believe it should be held behind closed doors.
The commission set a shade meeting Monday morning to discuss how to respond to Morgan’s budget appeal to Gov. Rick Scott. Morgan filed the appeal Thursday.
Morgan published a letter Saturday on Facebook urging commissioners to hold the meeting in public.
“I call upon EBOCC to squarely and frankly discuss these issues in the light of day in public,” Morgan wrote in the letter. “You may want to consider additional legal guidance before closing the meeting. If you do hold the closed meeting as planned, in my opinion it is not in the best interests of our constituents, nor will it foster our working relationship as we strive to achieve a budget resolution.”
. . .
Underhill took to Facebook on Sunday to poll members of the Escambia Citizens Watch Facebook Group on whether it was appropriate “to have ‘Shade Meeting’ on the budget.”
“I am hard pressed to find a moral position for conducting the people’s business outside of the scrutiny of the people who put me in this position of authority,” Underhill wrote.
Ninety-five people voted to hold the meeting in public, while three voted to hold the meeting in the shade.
Underhill told the News Journal he entered the shade meeting and asked what needed to be achieved that could not be done in public.
“The attorneys tried and Grover (Robinson) tried a little bit, but at the end of the day, nobody was really able to explain what we were going to accomplish that the people shouldn’t have a view,” Underhill said. “In my opinion, we failed to have a robust budget discussion this summer, and what’s happening now is just an extension of the budget discussion that we should have had in those open budget meetings.” [READ MORE]