JANUARY 1993: Hernando County School Board members Susan Cooper, Paul Clemmons, Nancy Gordon and Leland McKeown pleaded no contest to charges of violating the Open Meetings Law. As part of their plea agreements, they agreed to study the Sunshine Law. (See also August 1992, December 1992)

DECEMBER 1992: A Hernando County judge found Hernando County School Board member Diane Rowden guilty of one misdemeanor count of violating the Open Meetings Law. She was fined $322 and ordered to pay court costs and spend four hours reading the Government-in-the Sunshine Manual. Rowden pleaded no contest to the other 12 misdemeanor and 2 non-criminal charges during her trial. Governor Lawton Chiles removed Rowden from office, but changed his order to a suspension after the Florida Supreme Court said he did not have authority to remove her from office. Subsequently, the Florida Senate voted in March 1994 not to reinstate Rowden. (See also August 1992, January 1993)

AUGUST 1992: A grand jury indicted the entire Hernando County School Board for multiple alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law occurring over a two-year span. Member Diane Rowden was charged with 13 criminal and two non-criminal charges. Member Susan Cooper was charged with five criminal and two non-criminal charges. Member Paul Clemmons was charged with one criminal and one non-criminal violation. Members Nancy Gordon and Leland McKeown were charged with non-criminal counts. (See also December 1992, January 1993)

MAY 1992: The 17th Judicial Circuit Court dismissed the Sunshine Law violation charge against former Hollywood City Attorney Maria Chiaro. The court reversed the adjudication and fine and concluded that Chiaro was not acting as a Sunshine Law "public officer" in this case and that no meeting was held that was subject to the Sunshine Law. (See also January 1991)

SEPTEMBER 1991: Seven Sumter County Board of Adjustment members, three Big Corkscrew island fire commissioners and two former Center Hill City Commission members were charged with violating the Open Meetings Law. Charges against five of the 12 accused were dropped when the fire commissioners and former council members agreed to study the law and perform 5-10 hours of community service.

MAY 1991: Sunshine Law violation charges were dropped against eight members of a Eustis advisory committee after they agreed to spend four hours studying the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual.

APRIL 1991: Seven Highlands County officials pleaded no contest to non-criminal Sunshine Law violations. Four county commissioners and a former commissioner were charged with hiring a county attorney by secret ballot. One commissioner and two county administrators were charged with holding a secret meeting to double the county attorney's salary. Adjudication of guilt was withheld, and each defendant paid $25 in court costs.

JANUARY 1991: Broward County Judge Harvey Ford fined former Hollywood City Attorney Maria Chiaro $500 after finding her guilty of a non-criminal infraction of the Sunshine Law at the conclusion of a non-jury trial. Ford found that Chiaro was the "architect of a plan" to keep the public from decisions made for the acquisition of a new arts center. Chiaro helped the mayor form a group to recommend a site for the center. A group formed to advise decision-makers is subject to the Sunshine Law. The private meeting to consider the site was attended by Chiaro, the mayor, the city manager, other city employees and committee volunteers. Prosecutors said they charged only Chiaro because she advised them that the group could legally meet in private. (See also May 1992)

NOVEMBER 1990: Sixteen city leaders, including officials, employees and volunteers, in Mount Dora pleaded no contest to 24 counts of Sunshine Law violations. The charges stemmed from a complaint aired during a public meeting about the selection process for engineering contractors. Prosecutors split the 16 defendants into two groups: City Manager Dennis Finch and nine other city employees and elected officials "reasonably should have known and in fact did know" about the Sunshine Law. Lake County Judge William Law withheld adjudication and assessed a fine of $25 or 25 hours of community service for each count. Law also ordered the officials and employees to spend four hours reading the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual or the fine would increase to $400 per count. He also assessed $125 in court costs. The officials and employees included Finch (five counts); council members Faye Brooks (two counts) and Nancy Duxbury; former council members R. J. Johnson and Tony Segreto (two counts); Community Development Director Ken Harley; employee Dennis Huett; Recreation Director Judy Smathers; Utility Director Art Womble; and former public works director James P. Snell. The other six defendants were committee volunteers. They were to complete the four hours of study and perform five hours of community service per count in exchange for prosecutors dropping the charges against them.

AUGUST 1990: Four Minneola city officials who met privately to discuss management polices of the public works department were convicted of violating the Sunshine Law. Mayor May Griffith and council members Donald Felt, Jerry Purvis and Harold Croncich pleaded no contest to a non-criminal charge and were fined $400 each. Lake County Judge Richard Boylston suspended all but $25 of each of their fines on the condition they study the Sunshine Law for four hours, including reading the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual.

FEBRUARY 1990: Three Hernando County Planning and Zoning Board members pleaded no contest to violating the Sunshine Law and were fined $50 each plus court costs. Board members Robert Bubb, Oscar Zullo and Virginia Brown-Waite met with state Rep. Chuck Smith, D-Brooksville, in October 1989 to discuss state regulation of hazardous waste burning. Assistant State Attorney Jim McClure said Smith was not charged because he was not a member of the board and because evidence indicated the legislator was unaware the board had voted to look into hazardous waste regulations.


Florida Public Records and Open Meetings Laws Prosecutions Database




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