by Dan Ward
The Mayor of Winter Park, Florida, has prompted a firestorm of media criticism by holding individual meetings with fellow Commissioners rather than only discussing City business with the full Council.
Local reporters and columnists are up in arms about the Mayor’s brazen attempt to conduct meetings that “violate the spirit” of Florida’s expansive Government in the Sunshine Laws. By holding discussions outside of regularly scheduled Council meetings, they say, he’s making it impossible for citizens to hear what’s being discussed. It’s a travesty!
But wait. Their stories and columns all mention (correctly) that the meetings are publicly noticed, and that they are fully within the Sunshine Law requirements.
So is the problem that he’s making it difficult for “citizens” to follow topics by having discussions outside of the regular Council meetings that attract tens of people, or is the problem that he’s making it more inconvenient for reporters who now have to add new meetings to their calendars?
I’m a fan of government transparency, but I’m also a fan of government effectiveness. We don’t run our business by meeting as partners once every two weeks, and I fail to see how holding publicly noticed meetings on a more frequent basis is somehow harming the public’s right to know.
The news is full of stories about government officials who evade the Sunshine Laws entirely, so I’m not ready to criticize a politician for holding meetings that actually follow the law.