Daily Commerical by Roxanne Brown
May 17, 2020
TAVARES – The saga of the Confederate General Edmund Kirby-Smith statue continues.
Ever since the Lake County Historical Museum was awarded the statue in summer 2018, the county has been embroiled in a heated debate about whether the effigy is appropriate for the museum, which is housed in the Old Lake County Courthouse, a public building.
The newest wrinkle is a lawsuit against the Lake County Commission alleging the violation of the Sunshine Law. It was brought by the Lake County Voices of Reason, a group formed with the primary goal of bringing pertinent local issues to light. To further its mission, the group has also created a website lakecountyhistoricalmuseum.com, which intentionally looks like the museum’s website.
The county did not comment on the suit, but museum officials say the statue acquisition process was above board. Meanwhile, preparations and work continue for the arrival of the statue and the forthcoming exhibit.
Behind the suit
The suit alleges the commission held private meetings or discussions about bringing the statue to Lake County ahead of a July meeting at which they voted on the issue.
Such discussions would have violated the government transparency law requiring public officials not to speak privately about issues that the board may address.
Voices of Reason member Mae Hazleton said the point of the suit is to void the whole process of allowing the Kirby-Smith statue into Lake County because the process lacked the transparency mandated by Florida’s Sunshine Law.
Bob Grenier, the volunteer curator for the museum, which is governed by the Lake County Historical Society, traveled to Tallahassee in 2018 and enthusiastically asked the General Edmund Kirby Smith Statue Location Selection Committee to award the museum Kirby-Smith’s statue.