November 30, 2017
The Honorable Steve Leary, Mayor
City of Winter Park
401 South Park Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
Dear Mayor Leary:
We have been contacted by Winter Park residents expressing concern about recent
one-on-one meetings between members of the City of Winter Park Commission. From a quick check of the City’s website, there was an “informal discussion” between you and Commissioner Seidel scheduled for yesterday morning.
While such one-on-one meetings may meet the technical requirements of our Sunshine Law – the meetings are publicly noticed and presumably minutes are taken – we believe the meetings violate the spirit and intent of the law.
The practice of holding one-on-one meetings is not only bad public policy, it is also legally questionable. Florida’s courts have routinely and consistently held that the Sunshine Law is to be construed so as to avoid all evasive devices. [City of Miami Beach v. Berns, 245 So. 2d 38 (Fla. 1971); Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974); Blackford v. School Board of Orange County, 375 So. 2d 578 (Fla. 5th DCA 1979); Wolfson v. State, 344 So. 2d 611 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1977)]
The purpose of our open government laws is to provide the public an opportunity to oversee its government and hold it accountable for its actions. The practice of holding one-on-one meetings, particularly during the workday, creates an unnecessary and unwarranted barrier to the public’s ability to attend such meetings.
Citizens should be encouraged to participate in their government and these one-on-one meetings act as a disincentive and deterrent to civic engagement. We strongly urge you and your fellow commissioners to desist in this questionable practice.
Barbara A. Petersen, President
cc: Winter Park City Commission
Randy Knight, City Manager
FAF Board of Trustees