News-Press by Thyrie Bland
July 20, 2018
The Lee County school board meets after its regular board meetings for a critiquing session that it does not invite the public to attend.
Superintendent Greg Adkins and board attorney Keith Martin, who will be retiring soon, also attend the meetings, which started in 2017.
Typically, the meetings of public bodies in Florida must be open to the public, save for discussions about specific issues, such as litigation, that state law says can happen behind closed doors.
Martin said the meetings are legal under state law and doesn’t have to be open to the public because the board does not discuss anything that could come up for a vote at a future meeting. He said he attends to make sure nothing improper is talked about.
“There have been a couple of occasions where they have gotten close to that type of issue, and I have had to say, ‘No, Sunshine Law. Get back to the proper discussions,'” Martin said. “In that way, we make sure there are no Sunshine Law violations.”
Barbara Peterson, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said while the meeting might not violate Sunshine Law, it could cause a public perception issue for the board.
“To my way of thinking, the school board should be giving the Sunshine Law and our right of access the broadest interpretation possible,” Peterson said. “In other words, the school board should not be discussing anything in my mind, anything, that relates to school business except at a meeting opened and noticed to the public.”