Sarasota News Leader

11/08/2013

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OPINION GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE IN FLORIDA EDITORIAL The City of Sarasota is being sued — again — for a violation of Florida's Government in the Sunshine laws. The latest suit stems from a private meeting among two commissioners, the city manager and other city staffers with downtown merchants to discuss the presence of the homeless in downtown Sarasota. If so, the City Commission has much more to ponder than a proposed settlement to the current lawsuit, a case that some legal experts knowledgeable about Florida's Sunshine laws think is unwinnable for the city. That would lead one to speculate that the problem might be that the city's top executive is not a fan of our open meetings laws and has been steadfastly pushing against those constraints to gain as much leeway as possible to conduct city affairs more discreetly. The Florida attorney general has offered an opinion that clearly states that the law applies to "any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken." The commission must also consider the underlying cause of this rash of litigation over legal requirements so simple that a third-grader This is the fifth such lawsuit against the city would have no difficulty understanding the since Tom Barwin became city manager. limitations imposed by Government in the Before his appointment, such suits were a relSunshine. atively rare occurrence.

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