A possible violation of Florida’s open government Sunshine Law is in question in Santa Rosa County after an item up for vote at the Jan. 15 City of Milton Downtown Redevelopment Advisory Board meeting was allegedly discussed prior to the meeting by two board members.
Santa Rosa County District 2 Commissioner and DRAB member Bob Cole admitted that just before the meeting, he was asked by another board member – who he would not name – if he intended to nominate Kim McCarthy to a vacant position on the DRAB.
Cole said he answered yes to the question “without thinking,” and there was no further discussion of the matter.
“It wasn’t a planned discussion,” Cole said. “It wasn’t a discussion. It was just a reflex action that when somebody asks you something, you answer.”
Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille confirmed that the State Attorney’s Office has received a complaint in reference to a Sunshine Law violation in Santa Rosa County, but he could not discuss details nor confirm that it was in reference to the Downtown Milton Redevelopment Advisory Board meeting.
“We have been contacted by an individual regarding a possible Sunshine violation, and they were going to be providing us additional information,” Marcille said.
Marcille said he does not know if the State Attorney’s Office has received additional information yet from the complainant.
“If they bring any additional information forward, we would review it at that time and determine what actions, if any, we should take,” Marcille said.
McCarthy’s appointment had previously been approved unanimously at the November DRAB meeting, Cole said, so he was unaware that the decision would even be back on the agenda.
“I thought she already was the appointee,” Cole said. “I wasn’t aware that there was going to be a second questioning of her appointment.”
Several members had expressed concerns about McCarthy’s eligibility to serve on the DRAB, wanting to ensure that she was sufficiently engaged as a business operator within the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Cole said during Thursday’s meeting that he stood by his previous appointment of McCarthy from the November meeting, which was seconded by Elba Robertson, according to a recording of the meeting provided by the city.
However, the motion was amended by Councilman Jimmy Messick to appoint Laura Spencer Coleman after Messick questioned the validity of McCarthy’s appointment due to the possible Sunshine Law violation.
“I heard two people talking about it before this meeting as to who was going to make the motion and who was going to second for this position,” Messick said during the meeting. “I think that’s a violation of Sunshine.”
Cole admitted to the conversation and apologized to the board during the meeting.
“I’ll definitely try to make sure to pay more attention to making a comment like that (in the future),” Cole said in a phone interview.