News Release - Knight FOI Fund supports lawsuit for “illegal” city council meeting during pandemic

Submitted by NFOIC on Fri, 05/29/2020 - 8:58am

nfoic

 

 

 

May 29, 2020

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Bevarly

Executive Director, NFOIC

dbevarly@nfoic.org

352-294-7082

Knight FOI Fund supports lawsuit for “illegal” city council meeting during pandemic

After the City of Sebastian (FL) Mayor Ed Dodd cancelled an April 22nd city council meeting due to the Governor Ron Desantis’ Covid-19 Emergency Declaration, three council members used their electronic key cards to enter City Hall. After taking a roll call, the three council members declared that a quorum was present and proceeded to take action on a variety of issues, including: suspending emergency declarations; retaining a new attorney; placing a hold on a land use extension; canceling a utility contract; firing the City Manager and City Attorney; and, appointing one of the three members as the new Mayor. There was no discussion or debate on any of the motions made and the entire meeting lasted less than 10 minutes. (A video recording of the meeting is available here.)

The complaint, filed by two Florida open government attorneys, charges the three councilmembers and the April 22nd meeting violated all four requirements of Florida’s Sunshine Law:

  1. giving reasonable notice of all meetings of two or more members of any collegial body;
  2. the public must be allowed to attend;
  3. members of the public must be given a reasonable opportunity to speak on any item coming before the collegial body for a vote; and
  4. minutes must be taken.

"The First Amendment Foundation is so grateful for the support of the Knight Foundation and the NFOIC for their financial support of this litigation," said Pamela Marsh, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. "Enforcing Florida’s open government laws in court requires resources, and this kind of support makes that enforcement work possible."

The Knight FOI Fund is underwritten by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support litigants in open government lawsuits. It was established to fuel and assist the pursuit of important FOI cases by helping to defray upfront costs such as filing fees, depositions, court costs and other expenses associated with legal actions.

 

 

ABOUT NFOIC

The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of state and regional associations representing more than 37 states and the District of Columbia. Through our programs, services and national member network, NFOIC promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms, dispute resolution to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions.