Palm Beach Post by Kimberly Miller
September 18, 2019
The South Florida Water Management District made a multimillion-dollar decision without explaining why. A 4th DCA ruling says that may be OK.
What motivated the South Florida Water Management District to approve a multimillion-dollar settlement with a rock mining company in 2017 remains a secret following an appeals court decision Wednesday.
But the 4th District Court of Appeal in its ruling asks a lower court to review transcripts of the settlement meeting to decide whether discussions among district board members can be considered mediation – a designation that would exempt them from public records laws.
That means parts of the closed-door meeting that ended a long-running dispute between the district and Lake Point Restoration could still be revealed or could remain sealed.
“The concern is that government lawyers should not be able to hide the basis for an agency decision by discussing mediation during shade sessions,” said Everglades Law Center Executive Director Lisa Interlandi, whose public records request was the impetus for the judicial dispute. “In this case, the agency was going in one direction, they had a secret meeting, came out, and pivoted 180 degrees from their previous position.”