Some problems that Have/are occurring

If you have problems that cannot be sorted out at the school or district level and need assistance or information, you may contact me (contact page on right top tab) or contact: The Bureau of School Improvement, Contacts: Jenna Evans and Jessica Shiver; phone# 850-245-0426 or email: bsi@fldoe.org

 

  1. Do SAC members have to abide by Sunshine Law?

  2. Do Ad Hoc Committees have to abide by Sunshine and Public Records Laws?

  3. I would like to video or audio tape SAC meetings.

  4. Do SAC meetings have to have a quorum to conduct meetings?

  5. Robert's Rules of Order must be used in Hillsborough....by law?

  6. I was charged $116 for 12 copies of SAC membership election ballots

  7. They want to remove me as a SAC member

  8. Removal of a SAC member...other bylaws regarding removal

  9. 2 members resigned, SAC did not accept resignations, & refuse to make these resignations public documents

Q. Do SAC members have to abide by Sunshine Law?
Yes.  They are elected public officials.  This includes any discussion between 2 members without public notice, access to public records, allowing public input, public meeting place, etc...
Q. Do Ad Hoc Committees have to abide by Sunshine and Public Records Laws?
RESPONSE: According to the 2003 edition of the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, page 15, "Section 286.011, F.S., applies to meetings of 'two or more  members' of the same board or commission when discussing some matter which will foreseeably come before the board or commission...."

And, the Manual states, at page 1, "There are three basic requirements of s. 286.011, F.S.:
(1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public; (2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and (3) minutes of the meetings must be taken."

And, Florida's Public Records Law makes meeting notices, agendas, minutes,  etc. public records available for inspection and purchase.
Q. I would like to video or audio tape SAC meetings.
According to the 2003 edition of the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, page 39 - 40:
"Can restrictions be placed on the public's attendance at, or participation in, a public meeting?...
"Public" Cameras and tape recorders
"Reasonable rules and policies which ensure the orderly conduct of a public meeting and which require orderly behavior on the part of those persons attending a public meeting may be adopted by the board or commission. A rule or policy which prohibits the use of nondisruptive or silent tape recording devices, however, is unreasonable and arbitrary and is, therefore, invalid. AGO 77-122...."
Q. Do SAC meetings have to have a quorum to conduct meetings?
Yes.  State Statutes 1008.452 Requires a quorum to conduct meetings and vote and the quorum is defined as a majority of the membership. 

Hillsborough's 'generic bylaws' state:  "Regarding a quorum, normal parliamentary procedure calls for a quorum to be composed if a majority of the members of the body. However, a quorum is presumed to exist unless and until a member calls for a quorum count. This allows those members present and voting to conduct business in the absence of a true majority if proper notice of the meeting has previously been given."

This is illegal and I have started the steps to address this.  A letter has been sent to Hillsborough district which will be followed by another letter to school board and school board attorney.  If these steps prove unfruitful, then I will send a copy of the 'generic bylaws' to  the Florida Department of Education, Auditor General, Governor and your local legislators -- as well as local School Board, Board Attorney and Superintendent -- as well as local newspapers -- asking them to compare/contrast with s. 1001.452(1)(d), F.S., which provides the following: "Each school advisory council shall adopt bylaws establishing procedures for: 1. Requiring a quorum to be present before a vote may be taken by the school advisory council. A majority of the membership of the council constitutes a quorum...."

There is no provision of law for "generic bylaws" because, as quoted above, "Each school advisory council shall adopt bylaws...."; and, Members may not vote to conduct business in the absence of a true majority because doing so violates the requirements of law.

Q. Robert's Rules of Order must be used in Hillsborough....by law?
Hillsborough's generic bylaws state: "The State requires that the team adopt Robert's Rules of Order (as revised) as a guide for operating."

I see nothing in state statutes that says SAC must operate by RR. It does state that SACs must have bylaws. It could be a true statement if Hillsborough said that they require SACs to use RR. But it doesn't. So, they have no rules of order - therefore they cannot use them...in my opinion.

Q. I was charged $116 for 12 copies of SAC membership election ballots
1. According to the 2003 edition of the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, "If no fee is prescribed elsewhere in the statutes, s. 119.07(1)(a), F.S., authorizes the custodian to charge a fee of up to 15 cents per one-sided copy for copies that are 14 inches by 8 1/2 inches or less. An agency may charge no more than an additional 5 cents for each two-sided duplicated copy. A charge of up to $1.00 per copy may be assessed for a certified copy of a public record." The law allows, however, for a "special service charge for extensive use of clerical or supervisory labor or extensive information technology resources" -- where "extensive" generally refers to more than 15 minutes to retrieve, copy and refile records.... However, according to the Manual, "public information must be open for inspection without charge unless otherwise expressly provided by law."
2. Hillsborough County SIP Guidelines 2002-03, page 3 item b & c states:
Counting of Ballots– The ballots will be counted at the close of voting for each group, by a committee of members of that group who are not on the ballot. Announcement of results will occur immediately following the count. The principal should keep these ballots at the school for one year and be made available for public inspection.

Elections:  "Elections will be held prior to the District deadline for submitting SAC forms. Each stakeholder group will vote by secret ballot for their representatives at a meeting of their stakeholder group. The Principal and a representative of each group will establish procedures to ensure that only representatives of that particular group receive ballots. A School Advisory Council shall have the authority to replace any member who had two (2) unexcused consecutive absences from a S.A.C. meeting that is properly noticed. The S.A.C. will have the authority to define an unexcused absence.


Notation:  Since Hillsborough County Guidelines clearly indicate that ballots are used for elections and that the principal must keep the ballots for 1 year and make available for public inspection, the cost to retrieve the ballots is inexcusable.

Lucy adds, "send a copy of it to the local office of the State Attorney. According to the Manual, "Section 119.02, F.S., states that a public officer who knowingly violates the provisions of s. 119.07(1), F.S., is subject to suspension and removal or impeachment and is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by possible criminal penalties of one year in prison, or $1,000 fine, or both...." [You may want to look up the definition of a "public officer", however, to make sure that you are directing your requests to the proper person. I solved this problem several years ago by requesting our local Superintendent of Schools to identify the district's official custodian of records.]

RECOMMENDATION: According to the Manual, "Several years ago, Attorney General Butterworth established an informal voluntary mediation program within the Office of the Attorney General to resolve open government disputes. In 1995, this program was codified in s. 16.60, F.S. For more information about the voluntary mediation program, please contact the Office of the Attorney General at the following address: Office of the Attorney General, PL01, The Capitol, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1050; telephone (850)245-0157." (submitted by Lucy Margolis)

Q. They want to remove me as a SAC member
1. Hillsborough's 'generic bylaws' for schools who do not have their own bylaws only allows for removal for one specific instance.  "School Advisory Council shall have the authority to replace any member who had two (2) unexcused consecutive absences from a S.A.C. meeting that is properly noticed. The S.A.C. will have the authority to define an unexcused absence."    Therefore, Hillsborough SAC does NOT have the authority to dismiss any member for anything else but absences.
2. The principal is given statutorily the ability to appoint (add to the membership) members to even out the racial, economic, etc makeup of the group - there is no provision for removal of members to achieve equity!

How can a Principal, or chair, specifically choose one member to "vote out"? If the makeup of the elected members do not reflect the racial or economic demographics of the student population, the only remedy is to appoint additional members. There is no other remedy-otherwise you would specifically be excluding certain people from putting their name on the ballot-which would not be allowed.

According to law [s. 1001.452(1)(a), F.S.], "The district school board shall establish an advisory council for each school in the district and shall develop procedures for the election and appointment of advisory council members.... The district school board shall establish procedures for use by schools in selecting business and community members...." Thus, local School Board Rule needs to address selection -- and, if applicable, dismissal -- of SAC business and community members.... One could argue that if the local School Board wanted to provide for the dismissal of business and community members, they would have provided for it in their rules.

According to the same law, "The district school board shall review the membership composition of each advisory council." Has the School Board reviewed the composition of this SAC? If so, what wording was used in that particular agenda item -- that is, did they APPROVE the SAC membership roster? If so, absent violation of law or rule, I cannot see any reason that a SAC member could be dismissed. THE BOARD'S APPROVAL WOULD SUPERSEDE SAC APPROVAL. Example, if the School Board already approved this SAC's roster for the year, SAC does not appear to have the right to override Board action.

3. Statutes supersedes Robert's Rules of Order (RROO).  If RROO is to be used, the bylaws need to indicate the rules in which a member may be dismissed.  Statutes require removal of a SAC member if they miss 2 "unexcused" SAC meetings.  Hillsborough's generic bylaws also only indicate this as a reason to dismiss a member.  A SAC just cannot make up arbitrary rules to dismiss a member.  Once a SAC roster has been submitted and approved by the School Board, then any changes to that roster should involve the school board.
Roberts Rules do have chapters devoted to removing a member.
Art. XIII. Legal Rights of Assemblies and Trial of Their Members.
72. Right of an Assembly to Punish its Members
73. Right of an Assembly to Eject any one from its Place of Meeting
74. Rights of Ecclesiastical Tribunals
75. Trial of Members of Societies

72. The Right of a Deliberative Assembly to Punish its Members. A deliberative assembly has the inherent right to make and enforce its own laws and punish an offender, the extreme penalty, however, being expulsion from its own body. When expelled, if the assembly is a permanent society, it has the right, for its own protection, to give public notice that the person has ceased to be a member of that society.

But it has no right to go beyond what is necessary for self-protection and publish the charges against the member. In a case where a member of a society was expelled, and an officer of the society published, by its order, a statement of the grave charges upon which he had been found guilty, the expelled member recovered damages from the officer in a suit for libel, the court holding that the truth of the charges did not affect the case.

75. Trial of Members of Societies.
Q. Removal of a SAC member...other bylaws regarding removal
Our high school SAC bylaws used to have a provision to the effect that upon the recommendation of the principal, the SAC itself could vote to remove a SAC member. However, this provision was removed last year. In the bylaws revision committee, I argued that such a provision was illegal because:
1) it had the effect of disenfranchising stakeholder groups and thwarting the will of the legislature which said that parents should decided who the parents members were, teachers should decide . . . ;
2) it had a chilling of speech effect upon candid SAC discussion because SAC members would be inhibited from crossing the principal and the majority if they feared removal, and this violated political speech rights since it had no standards for determining what were appropriate grounds for removal. (According to these old rules, a member could be convicted of molesting a child and murdering a teacher and still be eligible to sit on the SAC, but if the member looked cross-eyed at the principal, then the person might be facing a removal proceeding.) (submitted by Dave Minor)
Q. 2 members resigned, SAC did not accept the resignations & refuse to make these resignations public documents...
If the SAC did not accept the resignations then the SAC must have seen these documents and voted on the issue. Therefore, the letters must be part of the SAC records with regards to this discussion and vote.

RESPONSE: According to law, "'public records' means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency." [s. 119.011(1), F.S.] That being the case, the letters of resignation appear to meet the definition of public records and need to be available for inspection and/or purchase pursuant to the provisions of Florida's Public Records Law under penalty of law for non-compliance. If the custodian of these records refuses a verbal request, I respectfully suggest the request be made in writing; and, if denied in writing, I respectfully suggest that the refusal be submitted to the local office of the State Attorney along with a complaint and request for assistance. ~ submitted by Lucy Margolis
This really is not about the A+ funds - it is about obeying statutes and SACs being able to do what legislators wanted us to do. If records had been given you, elections were done correctly, minutes taken and amended properly, innuendo stopped, sunshine law obeyed, SAC statutes obeyed, bylaws created...none of this would happen. Most of all, training in the law and our duties and responsibilities would have stopped all this. Pretty sad. Theresa
 
 
     
 

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