Nov 252016


Public Comment by Captain Ed Davidson, Monroe County School Board, District 3…….

Board comments at last evening’s school board meeting raise some serious, cautionary concerns about impending potential violations of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law. When the issue of extending Superintendent Porter’s contract was raised, Andy Griffith stated that he wanted to vote on it at the very next meeting, though Chairman John Dick responded that the board had not yet publicly discussed the issues involved.

This pressure to immediately extend the existing superintendent contract, even though it does not in fact expire for another 8 months on 31 July 2017, increases the danger of board member inclinations to participate in such conversations while all 5 of them and the superintendent will – for the first time in 10 years – be attending the state school board association conference in Tampa for 4 days only 6 days from last evening’s meeting.

There is a provision in state law that prevents school boards from meeting outside their home counties, with the obvious intent that local board business should be transacted in local communities. But a more direct provision of Florida’s Sunshine Law specifically prohibits any 3rd party, including the Superintendent, from acting as a liaison or go-between by relaying individual board member positions to other board members. This would be an unquestionable and prosecutable violation of the law. And we have an incoming State Attorney with a track record of taking infractions of the Sunshine Law quite seriously.

In fact, in Blackford v. School Board of Orange County, 375 So. 2nd 578 (Fla 5th DCA 1979), “the court held that a series of scheduled successive meetings between the school superintendent and individual members of the school board were subject to the sunshine law.” Clearly, the superintendent is prohibited at any time or geographic location from conveying to one board member the position or opinions of any other board member without the sun shining clearly in a public forum.

It would thus seem fundamentally prudent, and minimally regardful of taxpayer and media perception, for board members and the superintendent to totally refrain from any and all discussions of Mr. Porter’s contract extension (or not) except at a later local date and at regularly scheduled school board meetings; and do so in all 3 regions of the Florida Keys so that local citizens of all communities have the opportunity to comment on the many highly controversial issues that have arisen during the Porter Administration – issues that resulted in 27 ratings by current board members of less than 3.0 (”proficient”) out of 5.0, including 19 ratings of less than 2.0 (”below standards”), and 8 ratings closer to 1.0 “unsatisfactory” at the very bottom of the barrel.

This should adamantly not be a rushed and barely discussed rubber stamp approval of details worked out in a bar or restaurant in Tampa, and a long way from Florida Keys sunshine.

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 November 25, 2016  Posted by at 12:48 am Issue #194, Letter to the Editor  Add comments

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