JANUARY 2006: Former Ocoee city commissioner Danny Howell pleaded no contest to violating the Sunshine Law. He was fined $500 plus court costs for the civil infraction. Howell was also charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for allegedly violating the Sunshine Law, but prosecutors dropped that charge. The charges stem from a 2004 phone call to a fellow commissioner, where the two allegedly discussed a proposed real estate transaction that would come before the commission.

FEBRUARY 2006: A noncriminal judgment against former Oak Hill City Commissioner Ron Mercer for violating the Sunshine Law was overturned by two circuit judges. Judges John Watson and Edwin Sanders vacated the November 2003 judgment and ordered Mercer’s $500 fine be returned. Mercer and fellow commissioner Bob Jackson reportedly had a private discussion about a mayoral appointment in January 2002. In a joint opinion, the judges found that “the brief exchange between the two officials did not constitute a meeting at which official acts are to be taken or at which public business of such (collegial public) body is to be transacted or discussed.” Assistant State Attorney Phil Havens said the State is likely to seek an appellate review of the opinion. The 5th DCA denied the State's petition to reveiw the case in February 2006. (See also December 2002, July 2003, November 2003, and August 2005.)

APRIL 2006: Ten members of the Polk County Opportunity Council were found guilty of violating the Sunshine Law. County Judge Anne Kaylor ordered each board member to pay a $250 fine and $28.60 in court costs. The non-criminal charges stemmed from a closed September meeting during which the board discussed former executive director Carolyn Speed. The members charged are Patricia Hunter, Collins Smith, Morris Chestang, Booker Young, Beverly Howell, Jessie Kirby, Annie Bryant Phyall, Ben Graham, Dennis Goosby and Ozell Wilson. The PCOC members later appealed the ruling in June 2006, but the appeal was denied by a circuit judge.

MAY 2006: A circuit judge dropped criminal charges against an Escambia County commissioner who died in 2004. Willie Junior disappeared a day before he was to be sentenced on corruption charges. He died of an apparent suicide. The main reason for the request to drop charges was to allow Junior's widow to receive her husband's retirement benefits from the county and state. Junior and three other county commissioners were indicted in May 2002. Junior faced charges ranging from racketeering and bribery to violating the Sunshine Law.

MAY 2006: Four Pompano Beach City Commissioners charged with violating the Sunshine Law have agreed to donate $200 each to charity. In exchange for the commissioners’ admission of guilt and donation, prosecutors have agreed that the violations were inadvertent. The charges stemmed from a 2004 lunch meeting between commissioners Kay McGinn, Susan Foster, Lamar Fisher and George Brummer and Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne.

JULY 2006: Two current and three former town council members were accused of violating the Sunshine Law by allegedly excluding town employees from public meetings. The charges stemmed from a 2004 budget workshop during which the then-town manager was asked to leave while his salary was discussed. Mayor Richard C. Dunlop and former council members Walter J. Sackville, John Brehmer and Barbara Greenbaum Deputron were accused of the violation.

SEPTEMBER 2006: A four-month investigation into alleged Sunshine Law violations by Monroe County commissioners resulted in no evidence of wrongdoing, according to a State Attorney's Office report. The firing of the county attorney at a February meeting prompted the investigation. Richard Collins was fired at the meeting after the action was added to the agenda at the last minute. The investigation involved interviews with the five commissioners and other county employees. E-mails, cell phone records and other communications were also subpoenaed.

SEPTEMBER 2006: A hospital indicted on misdemeanor charges for violating Florida's open government laws during a CEO search reached an agreement with the State Attorney's Office. A Marion County grand jury indicted Munroe Regional Health Systems Inc., saying hospital officials violated public records and open meetings laws this year while searching for a new chief executive officer. The grand jury indicted the not-for-profit hospital on two counts following an investigation by State Attorney Brad King. Individual board members were not charged. In exchange for amending its lease to reflect principles of "operating in the spirit of open government," the State Attorney's Office dismissed the charges.

OCTOBER 2006: A Sebastian city councilman was found not guilty of violating the state's Sunshine Law and charges were dropped against another council member, with a judge saying the law does not ban all talk between public officials. Andrea Coy and Sal Neglia faced noncriminal charges for violating the Sunshine Law. At a January 25, 2007, meeting, Neglia said he recently had called Coy to learn more about a dispute between local lawn bowlers and tennis players over the use of a park's clay tennis courts. Former Mayor Walter Barnes filed a complaint with the State Attorney's Office about Neglia and Coy talking about city business outside of a public meeting.

Florida Public Records and Open Meetings Laws Prosecutions Database



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