West Palm Beach held a second Sunshine Law training session Wednesday for city officials and advisory board members.
This time it was an open meeting.
Pat Gleason, special counsel for open government in the Florida attorney general’s office, gave a brief history of the law, which she said offered broadest protections of any government in the sunshine law in the United States.
Three dozen people attended the City Hall session, including all five city commissioners, who sat in the front row.
They heard the basics:
- Meetings of public boards of commissions must be open to the public, and that doesn’t mean just “formal assemblages” but meetings of any two members of a board who discuss any matter that might foreseeably come before their board for action.
- Reasonable notice of such meetings must be provided.
- Minutes must be kept, even of workshops, and must be open to public inspection.
Violations could result in votes being invalidated, criminal penalties, or suspension or removal from office, she noted.
The law is the strongest of its kind in the country as a result of years of sustained effort to enact, clarify and strengthen it in the Legislature and courts, Gleason said.
The meeting was in marked contrast to one held April 24, which was conducted out of the sunshine, without notice to the public.
City spokesman Elliot Cohen said later that before the meeting, the administration checked with Gleason and was told that training sessions did not need to be held in public.
But another of the state’s top experts in the law, Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee nonprofit, said that the issue was legally a gray area.
“But as a policy, particularly when we’re talking about sunshine, I mean, that’s the ironic thing here,” she said.
Original article here.