Orlando Sentinel by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
May 29, 2020
TALLAHASSEE — An open-government advocate wants the brakes applied to upcoming webinars about controversial toll-road projects, contending that more-inclusive in-person meetings should be held as the state reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the webinar plans will continue, the First Amendment Foundation also questioned the legality of six webinars already held by task forces working on the projects, which would stretch from Collier County to the Georgia border.
“The webinars are a poor substitute for the kind of government that is required by Florida’s Sunshine Law, which does apply to the M-CORES task force meetings,” First Amendment Foundation President Pamela Marsh wrote Thursday to Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, using an acronym for the projects that the state has dubbed the “Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.”
Marsh wrote that the webinars should be “postponed (and preferably canceled)” until everyone interested in attending can be accommodated. Marsh added that state administrative rules require meetings to be halted if technical problems develop with the communications network, which she said occurred during each meeting.
Marsh said in an email to The News Service of Florida on Friday that the intent isn’t to “make any threats at this time” as she hopes “FDOT will make a change for greater public participation.”
The Orlando Sentinel and News Service are members of the First Amendment Foundation.