Anna Maria Commissioner Chuck Webb stood up, took the microphone as if to ask a question at the Feb. 28 town hall meeting, and promptly warned other elected officials their attendance amounted to a “potential Sunshine Law violation.” He then left the meeting, mumbling comments to Anna Maria Commissioner Dale Woodland as he exited.
The Islander sponsored the town meeting at the Holmes Beach city chambers to provide a chance to talk one-on-one with state Sen. Bill Galvano.
Webb was referring to the Florida law that prohibits members on the same public board or commission to meet and discuss any matter the board may act upon, unless reasonable notice is given of the meeting. The Sunshine Law applies to any gathering of two or more members.
But both Islander publisher Bonner Joy and Holmes Beach clerk Stacey Johnston responded that the notice had been posted both at city hall and in the newspaper.
Woodland next took the mic and announced he disagreed with Webb’s interpretation of the law and the meeting continued with members of the audience, including officials from all three island cities and others in the audience relating questions and comments to Galvano prior to the March 5 startup of the two-month legislative session in Tallahassee.
On the Sunshine Law issue of council members attending a community forum, a 1996 state Attorney General opinion concluded that so long as council members did not discuss among themselves matters that could come before the council, the gathering was not subject to the law.
Assistant Attorney General Lagran Saunders wrote, “The mere expression of a council member’s position on a matter that may foreseeably come before the council does not necessarily subject the meeting to the Sunshine Law.”