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07.18.07 -- Council members attend neighborhood school meeting outside state Sunshine Law

By CHER PHILLIPS

Two McIntosh Town Council members attended a meeting tonight at Sportsman's Cove with knowledge that their attendance at that meeting was outside Florida's Sunshine Law.

Councilman Lee Deaderick and Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan were informed by this reporter and Joedy Smith that their attendance at a meeting to discuss whether how the town should proceed with school officials' desire to build a permanent building for the school was outside Florida's Sunshine Law. *

The neighborhood meetings were open to the public, but were not publicly noticed town meetings, in which minutes were taken. Designed to be informal, five meetings were held in McIntosh. Council members were invited to attend.

The Sunshine Manual says that Florida's Sunshine Law is "applicable 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 by the public board or commission."

About 15 residents of Sportsmans' Cove and Robert's Acres, and other parts of McIntosh, attended the meeting. The neighborhood meetings were planned by school organizers to gauge the feeling of residents about building a permanent building for McIntosh Area Charter School. The Mirror reported last week that these events would be taking place and that organizers were hoping that individuals would attend the meetings they were sent invitations to, when possible, so enough refreshments would be available for everyone.

The central issue of the meeting was to take stock of residents' thoughts on the school's future so
event organizers could report back to the town council, guaranteeing that any discussion would come before the town's highest board in the future.

At tonight's meeting, another resident and this reporter informed the two council members that both of them being present was a violation of the Sunshine Law. Then, Smith also confirmed this for the council members.

Callahan went as far as to tell the other council member that one of them would need to leave. Deaderick joked about the meeting being "in the moonlight." Neither council member left and stayed through the meeting.

The purpose of the Sunshine Law is to ensure the governmental decision-making process is open to everyone. It is unknown at this point how many council members attended the other neighborhood meetings.

Smith said tonight that one of the other informal discussions was well attended and the other was not, making the Cove meeting one of the better attended meetings in town.

(* spelling and grammar edit made July 19)

posted by Cher @ 8:52 PM,

47 Comments:

At   July 18, 2007 10:38 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

will the last council person leaving office please take the town charter to tallahassee!!!!

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:22 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Will this cause our town charter to be pulled? I doubt that. I believe the intent of the sunshine rule is to prevent "back room deals" etc. Let me assure you there was NOTHING back room about this get together. I can't believe that the people that came up with the sunshine rules would look poorly on the cathering that took place. These meetings were well publicized. No one was turned away, and the reporter for this blog was there.
I applaud the two elected officials that showed up. I want the leaders of my community to go out and do some research.

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:24 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher, you are such a trouble maker! You just have to report everything. Is this really a violation of the sunshine law if they didn't talk to each other, just were in the same place at the same time listening to someone other than a council member?

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:26 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I applaud the two elected officials as well. I think that it is only their job to find out the desires of the town people are, and I believe that is what they were doing.

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:32 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher just has to stir this town up and once she breaks it up she will probably move away. Shes causing trouble for the town by reporting every time someone farts just so she has something to talk about in journalism class.

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:35 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher, you don't even care about the issue. All you want to do is cause trouble. You did not even report what the concensesus of the meeting was. Maybe you need to go to work for the tabloids. The really bad ones that like to take a good thing and turn it into smut

 
At   July 18, 2007 11:54 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

"Trouble Maker" Thats such strong language. I wish she would have titled the story "Council members attend neighborhood school meeting POSSIBLY violating state Sunshine Law" If a complaint is filed someone will make that determination.

 
At   July 19, 2007 12:06 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I dont believe a complaint will be filed. Those rules are there to report wrong doing, to prevent the possibility of some bad things happening. I think we all understand the basics of the sunshine laws. We need those rules. That is not what took place tonight.

 
At   July 19, 2007 8:52 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

You may applaud the council men, but you sure dont think. We have laws for a reason, here in the town they are called ordinances. If you dont like the laws then change them, but do not disreguard them.

By disreguarding them you creat an unequal system of government. If you think unequal is a correct method to govern, then take your voting card and turn in back in to D. brown.

Of course so many of you have given so little for our nation, why would you care how it is governed.

 
At   July 19, 2007 9:23 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Florida has great Sunshine Laws and their purpose isn't to keep people from meeting to talk about building
a school.

The rub here is that we shouldn't expect our government officials to follow the laws only when the reason is convenient for them to do it, or we like the reasons they aren't following them.

In fact, some decisions that public boards have made in Florida that were proved NOT to fall in the Sunshine have been thrown out, like presidential searches. Do you want someone to have grounds for challenging a council decision that supports building a school? Not that I'm saying that would happen. But the last time I reported McIntosh Town Council members held meetings contrary to the Sunshine Law, other residents used that reporting as grounds in a recall petition.

No, the town can't lose its charter for someone not following the Sunshine Law.

I'd like to speak to the comment on my not caring about the issue.

I do actually care that people in McIntosh have a method for discussing building a school.

When I spoke with Linda McCollum last week and she said the council was invited to these meetings, I encouraged her to consider that more than two council members present at any of the meetings could be a Sunshine Law violation. That was Thursday morning.

Thursday evening I spoke with Joedy Smith during the council meeting and expressed the concern I spoke with to Linda about that morning. Joedy said that he knew. For that reason, he told me that no more than one of the school's board members could attend any one meeting.

Several people, including Joedy, pointed this out to Lee and Eva Jo last night. They chose to stay. I did what I do and wrote about it.

 
At   July 19, 2007 10:37 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

For whom ever said something about people not caring about our nation heres what i have to say to you. Back off - what makes you think that you are above anyone else and what makes you think that you can say that. Screw you.

 
At   July 19, 2007 1:08 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Does anyone really think that the gathering last night was some shady back room conspiracy. Come on people! ....lets save all this energy to do some good. I dont think the council members chose to disregard the law. I believe they disagreed with the concerns some people expressed to them. Change the Law? I think the rules need to be there. Do I think the law was broken or the intent of the law? NO! If you do, File a complaint! I dont think you feel the intent of the sunshine law was broken last night either.

NOW ....is ther any real back room, shady stuff going on?

 
At   July 19, 2007 1:37 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I don't think it's a matter of "back room - shady stuff." I never implied that.

The Sunshine Law is cut and dry. Something doesn't have to be "back room" to be contrary to the Sunshine.

The Sunshine law applies to

1. "any gathering of two or more members of the same board or commission..."

Were there two council members there? Yes.

2. "...to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken by the public board or commission."

Will the school building project come before the board? Most likely yes, since gathering public opinion for the council members to make decisions was the point of the meeting.

Now, according to the Sunshine Law, public meetings must be...

1. Publicly noticed.

Was this meeting posted at the town hall?
No, the town did not run a public notice of all of these meetings since it wasn't a town meeting.

2. Open to the public, all the public.

Was this meeting open to every person in McIntosh?

Not necessarily. The area meetings were open to a select group of people by invitation.

3. Minutes must be taken.

Were official minutes taken?
No, I was the only person there with a notebook and pen. And my minutes don't count as official.

****

It's always newsworthy when any public official decides not to accommodate the Sunshine Law.

 
At   July 19, 2007 2:10 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher, Do you really feel that the reason for the sunshine law or the intent of that law was broken last night?

 
At   July 19, 2007 2:33 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I can't speak for someone else's intent.

I reported what happened.

 
At   July 19, 2007 2:50 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Was there any discusion BETWEEN the 2 council members present. Did either of the council members express there opinion?
I think that the news worthey part here is that Lee was quiet. I dont think he said 25 words. And those were in the form of questions directed at Jody.

 
At   July 19, 2007 3:02 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Both council members contributed more than 25 words to the meeting.

 
At   July 19, 2007 3:23 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

1.Was there ANY discussion BETWEEN the council members present?

2.Did either one express there opinion during this gathering?

 
At   July 19, 2007 4:00 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I'd have to go back to my audio files and listen to the meeting again. I don't have it here with me. Both town council members did attend and participate in the meeting.

I also made a couple calls into the Sunshine experts.

I've looked through the exemptions. The problem is that if the Sunshine Law applied to the school board members and they knew it, logic would follow that it certainly applied to the town council.

 
At   July 19, 2007 4:24 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I do not believe a Sunshine Law was violated. The Sunshine Law is for officials who have an agenda to gain monetarily from a decision that is made behind closed doors. This was a public meeting with many people present and an audio tape was running! The Sunshine Law was not violated. Get over it and get on with your business. Submitted by: Cary McCollum

 
At   July 19, 2007 7:48 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Cary -
I appreciate you leaving your name. Thank you.

I wanted to make a couple points clear about your posting so others in town don't get the wrong idea.

Florida's open meeting laws are applicable regardless of the matter up for discussion. While it's a bonus when the laws keep back-room-pocket-lining deals from happening, they are applicable regardless of the business at hand.

This was a public meeting in one sense. But it was also an "invited" meeting. I certainly don't think anyone from the school made anyone in town feel unwelcome, it was not by the law a defined public, noticed meeting.

Yes, I made an audio recording as a reporter, making them my notes. Reporters notes are not minutes. These are very different types of records of a meeting. I don't know many reporters who would give up their notes.

 
At   July 19, 2007 8:26 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher Says "I can't speak for someone else's intent. I reported what happened". They asked your opinion, why are you skirting around the question, answer it. Do you really feel the Sunshine Law was broken?

If you are going to circulate and report on this shit why don;t you answer peoples question. McIntosh didn't ask for a reporter!

We asked for some decent human beings to give some of their time to serve our town and thats what they are trying to do. Unless you are going to get on the council just shut up. Go write for the national enquirer.

 
At   July 19, 2007 8:48 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

i think that you are a sad person with nothing else to do but hide behind yourself in this blog. dont you have some friends, family, etc or a life other than being the mcintosh reporter? move somehere else and report. get out and enjoy the fresh air, get a cat, exercise, get a significant other, do something but quit this. get a real job. go away.

 
At   July 19, 2007 8:57 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Can you do a poll to see if the town thinks that the blog should be shutdown?

 
At   July 19, 2007 10:22 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I answered the question that way because I can't read minds. I don't know what their intent was.

I wrote a report on this, not an editorial. My opinion doesn't add anything to this discussion. Information I gather does, and it's what I've posted here. Did it occur to you that I might not have an opinion either way? When I attend meetings, you don't see me raising my hand to state my opinion on issues. I ask questions, generally. But I leave the opinion stating to others.

For the record, I find the personal attacks against me lack substance and are basically cowardly. You are taking advantage of the privilege I've extended you to post anonymously.

No one is making you read the blog. If you dislike it so much, why are you posting on it?

Also, isn't it ironic that the blog has had three to four times the amount of traffic today than it has on the average day. I also would like to point out that it's you all who are flocking to read and argue about the story you liken to tabloid journalism, yet none of you have commented or discussed the story about the school or the water. Not one comment about the school story, the real issue at hand. Do you want a school? Do you think the town should take on a $1 million loan? Do you think the town should give the school the land? How about the water issue?
Do you think the water rate hike is sufficient or too much? Is the three-tiered rate plan the right idea? Should we do more to encourage residents to conserve water? We have McIntosh residents who actually use more than 800,000 gallons of water a year. That's one family alone consuming the amount of water about 20 average residents consume.

Clearly, I struck a nerve here. But y'all are shooting the messenger.

 
At   July 19, 2007 10:26 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

While I do not agree with Cher's assessment of what happened last night, I take issue with folks who feel free to attack her personally. While she seems to think the Sunshine Law has been violated, that is her interpretation. I am sure if it is reported as a violation, it will be thrown out as not having merit. You folks don't have to stoop to personal attacks and foul language. Since all the rest of you feel free to hide behind "anonymous", I'll do likewise.

 
At   July 19, 2007 10:57 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

personally i want a school and if you want to water your grass, take long showers, and fill your pool thats your water to use...you pay for it.

 
At   July 19, 2007 11:37 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Whether you do or do not think the sunshine law has been violated,is totaly pointless. Having contacted the state ethics commission, they are certain there has been a violation of both the intent and fact of the sunshine law. Further their investergator is checking to see if in fact a violatioon of the ethics commission rules have been broken. Further you non-thinking thinkers should crap in one hand and think in the other. let me know which fills first.

 
At   July 19, 2007 11:40 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

atacking the reporter, when either your officials are dishonest, or you wish things could be a certain way is silly, and considering your performance a citizens you should give up your voter id cards and move on to chinaa.

 
At   July 19, 2007 11:57 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

What in the world is going on. I check in to see how things are going in McIntosh, and wham folks are slamming each other over a state law. Calling each other names, politics isnt presonal, a blood sport yes, but not personal.. Politics is about ideas. Convincing one an other who has the better idea is an art. Good ideas have been presented on both sides of the school issue, im still uncertain as to the right course. And who ever is complaining about giving for there natioons government, i waaasnt aware there was a gift requirement. Bill Glass

 
At   July 20, 2007 6:19 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I'm just curious. If both council members were alerted to the fact their presence would be a violation of the Sunshine Law, why didn't one of them just leave?

 
At   July 20, 2007 7:14 AM     ,    Blogger McIntosh Flash    said...

Imagine a campfire.........


KUM BY YA, KUM BY YA


Now, doesnt that feel better???

 
At   July 20, 2007 7:44 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher, were you able to review the audio files? I feel your pain with time constrants.

1.Was there ANY discussion BETWEEN the council members present?

2.Did either one express there opinion during this gathering?

Since reading numerous pages on the Attorney generals opinions page at his web site, Question #2 is not really that important. Back to question #1.
I know the answer to the above and I dont think they have anything to worry about. But I thought OJ was quilty.

The members present handled themselfs in a very proffesional manner.

Its a shame that the ethics people are already CERTAIN there was a violation, I would hope they would gather a little bit more information before comming to a conclusion.

Once Cher comes up with the Facts [thank goodness she was there] we can move forward and hopefully redirect some of this energy.

 
At   July 20, 2007 8:45 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Here is the real point. If the town gives the school the land and they fail the state could put a jail,prison outpost or even a sewer plant in. If the town does the loan well that is $1,000,000.00 not cheap. Does the town have that type of cash? And as far as bashing Cher you are wrong to bash her this town and everyone in it should know the sunshine law by the back of their hand by now! And buddy deals HA that is what McIntosh has been made of and it has been maintained quite a bit in the last year or two.

 
At   July 20, 2007 3:35 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher,

If we look back on the issues that have created the most discussion and outrage, they are first reported by you. There are many more that go unreported - like those of shady dealings of certain members of the now sitting council. The members that are not pro-howard get the shaft from you. You were able to clear out the previous council - are you trying to do that again? It is clear that your reporting is biased.

If this is not the case, why dont you investigate some of these issues like no building permits for large buildings, votes on boards that violate the sunshine law. You have never titled a headline - Vice President of the Council votes to change zoning on his own property in violation of Ethics standards.... but you pick a situation that clearly was a chance meeting by two members to incite the people of our town.

If you are going to report the news, then BE UNBIASED. If not, just tell us that Howard is you uncle and Charlsie is your sister. It certainly sounds that way.

 
At   July 20, 2007 5:16 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher If this meeting was not public as you claim. See previous post

Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03: All parties must consent to the recording or the disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication in Florida. Recording or disclosing without the consent of all parties is a felony, unless the interception is a first offense committed without any illegal purpose, and not for commercial gain, or the communication is the radio portion of a cellular conversation. Such first offenses and the interception of cellular communications are misdemeanors. State v. News-Press Pub. Co., 338 So. 2d 1313 (1976), State v. Tsavaris, 394 So. 2d 418 (1981).

Now the question. Is there any commercial gain?

Cher could you answer the door....
I think the sheriff is knocking.

 
At   July 20, 2007 5:18 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Now, now. Howard and Charlsie are going to think you are trying to insult them if you keep up with comments like that!

One night you want me to axe the blog, the next night you tell me I don't report enough. Which is it?

See, neither of you signed your names, so I have to suppose you are all the same bitter person. Man up and own your comments.

If I can admit when I'm wrong, you can SURELY gather up enough guts to sign your insults or stay silent.

 
At   July 20, 2007 6:56 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

WOW I guess that sunshine law is not as cut and dry as you said! Thankyou Cher we all learned something today. Thankyou Eva Joe and Lee for standing up for what you in your heart knew was right. And I think the school thought it was doing what was right.

 
At   July 20, 2007 11:47 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

AX the blog.

 
At   July 20, 2007 11:48 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

knock knock.theres someone at the door for you

 
At   July 20, 2007 11:49 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I think that you should make the blog non-anomyous and see how many hits you get! It would die!

 
At   July 22, 2007 7:32 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Hey............Hellooooooo.....
Come on guys!
Where did everybody go?

 
At   July 22, 2007 7:46 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

It was all that camp fire and kum by ya stuff.

 
At   July 22, 2007 9:53 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Been reading Harry Potter, myself.

And y'all said I'm the one with the sad life.... Good call on Kumbaya. I never cease to be amazed by the things that the good people of McIntosh post in these forums when someone scratches the surface around here.

Go enjoy your Sunday and the rest of the weekend. You can go back to calling me she-who-shall-not-be-named later.

 
At   July 27, 2007 5:54 PM     ,    Blogger McIntosh Flash    said...

Well, just like everything else in the town, the noise has quit - for a while.

On to bigger and better (I hope) things...

Oh - I vote to keep the Blog!

 
At   July 27, 2007 7:59 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

If the town gave the school the land......could the state really put anything there? I thought it would go back to the school board and the guess was that they probably would not want it. Then the USDA would try to recover there money and sell it? To whom? would the zoning there give the town some control over what could go there?

 
At   July 29, 2007 7:42 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Hey, heck yes keep the blog. There iare a couple interestiing fellows making comments.

Mr. B

 

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Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

About This Blog

The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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