Sunshine Law Memos & Interpretations

Sunshine Law Memos / Interpretations

Districts may provide additional guidelines regarding Sunshine Laws

ST. PETERSBURG TIMES NEWSPAPER article of 9/26/2005 re:  School Board and Sunshine Law:

"Cell calls leaving public in dark?"
"Phone chats between two Pinellas County School Board members raise concerns about the Sunshine Law. 

(NOTE: Pat Gleason is general counsel for the Florida Attorney General's Office & an expert on the Sunshine Law.) 
These are some quotes from the article:
       "Gleason, the Sunshine Law expert, said the board does not have to vote on an issue for it to be covered under the law."  
        "When it was suggested that their conversation might violate the Sunshine Law, Clark (the board member) said it wasn't a problem because the two were discussing "process." 
      "There is no such exception" in the law, said St. Petersburg lawyer Alison Steele, a Sunshine Law expert who represent the Times.  The process is "the whole point of the law," she said.  "It's not just the (board) decision that matters.  It's everything that goes into the decision... You do not discuss public business privately."
Palm Beach District: 
Bulletin from the School Board Attorney to Principals & Superintendents regarding abstentions from voting


TO: Area Superintendents and School Principals
FROM: Bruce A. Harris, Interim Chief Counsel to the School Board
SUBJECT: Sunshine Law Guidelines for School Advisory Councils

Abstention from Voting Is Prohibited Except to Avoid a Conflict of Interest

"In general, each SAC member who is present at a meeting is required to vote on each matter that comes before the council. Fla. Stat. 286.012 provides that [n]o member . . . who is present at any meeting . . . may abstain from voting . . . except when, with respect to any such member, there is, or appears to be, a possible conflict of interest under . . . s. 112.311,[1] s. 112.313,[2] or s. 112.3143,[3] F.S. If the member does abstain from voting due to a conflict, the statute requires that member must state the basis for abstaining and file a disclosure:

Such public officer shall, prior to the vote being taken, publicly state to the assembly the nature of the officer's interest in the matter from which he or she is abstaining from voting and, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his or her interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes."

Miami-Dade School District

District Policy regarding SAC including the use of Alternates  (this is a Microsoft Word document)
2.  E,) "Alternates - One alternate for each group listed above should be selected in the same manner used to elect representatives for each group."

Question posted to Miami-Dade School Board Attorney: 
On or about August 28th, I (Lucy Margolis, Miami) sent a letter of inquiry to Board Attorney Johnny Brown, Miami-Dade County Public Schools. His reply dated September 5th follows:

Dear Ms. Margolis:
Please find responses to questions raised in your letter of August 28, 2002, as follows:

Q:  How literally are we to interpret law [s. 1001.452, F.S. re SAC agenda] and rule in this regard?
A:   The law and rules promulgated by the School District regarding this matter are to be interpreted literally.

Q:   Must each EESAC [SAC = Educational Excellence School Advisory Council in M-DCPS] member be mailed a copy of the agenda no later than three days prior to the meeting?
A:   Mailing is one method of complying with the requirements of the statute. Mailing of the agenda should be done in sufficient time for all EESAC members to receive it at least three days in advance of the meeting.

Q:   Must copies of the agenda be mailed ahead of time in order to assure receipt no later than three days prior to the meeting?
A:   Any agenda, to the extent that it is available, should be made available in sufficient time to insure that a copy may be received by EESAC members at least three days prior to the meeting.

Q:   Do days in this regard refer to calendar days or to work days?
A:   Calendar days.

Q: ... Or, will simply posting a copy of the agenda at school and the SBAB [School Board Administration Building] along with the official Meeting Announcement fulfill this legal obligation?
A:    Posting a copy of the agenda and an official Meeting Announcement as indicated does not fulfill the statutory obligation that all members receive three days advance notice, in writing, of any matter that is scheduled to come before council for a vote.

(Thanks for sharing the info Lucy and thank you to Miami-Dade SB attorney for the reply that is straight-forward and in full support of the law and the intent of the law.  This email was sent on 9/26/02 on the FL-SAC newsgroup.)


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