This is a very inefficient process we are engaging here!

Tampa Meeting Regulatory Council Of Community Association Managers -- November 7, 2008

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

Published November 25, 2008

After listening to the tape from the Tampa meeting of the Regulatory Council of Community Association Managers, I definitely have to agree with the statement of new council member Terence Brennan: "This is a very inefficient process we are engaging here!"

Very little was actually achieved during the meeting. Most of the time was used for presentations from department employees and attorney Barbara Edwards from the Attorney Generalís office.

 

Barbara Edwards, Assistant Attorney General, started her "education" of new council members with warnings like: "I tend to be a cautious attorney! ... and I want to keep you out of trouble! If I advise you against certain actions and you chose to ignore my advice you are probably acting knowingly under the law and that means you are disregarding the law. If however, I'm wrong, you shouldn't face the consequences. So if the Council disagrees with me there are no consequences to individual council members or the Council as a whole."
  

So far, so good! But when new council member Terence Brennan tried to make a presentation 

titled: PROPOSALS FOR RESTORING TRUST IN CAM LICENSES a big discussion ensued with Barbara Edwards claiming that allowing this presentation to be made would actually violate the Florida Sunshine Law.

 

Brennan tried to introduce his presentation under the agenda item: "Prosecuting Attorney's Report" -- an agenda item that well suited his presentation. The fruitless discussion that ensued actually took 28 minutes away from the Council's valuable meeting time and ended with a tied vote, disallowing Brennan to read his presentation into record.

 

Please note: Brennan wanted to read his written presentation into record and hand every person present a hard copy of this presentation. Discussion to follow at the next Council meeting. Brennan had asked Executive Director Anthony B. Spivey to add this presentation to the agenda in a timely manner, but his request was clearly ignored. 

 

Here are some of highlights of this discussion:

 

Barbara Edwards: "I'm a little bit concerned about it's not been a public record."


Terence Brennan: 
"I had actually requested that as an agenda item to discuss this and I was told that it would be included in the prosecuting attorney's report!"

Barbara Edwards: "This material should be given to attorney for inclusion in the next agenda so that anyone in the whole world of people who is interested in CAMs and interested in that topic can have the opportunity to come to the meeting, listen to what it said and contribute to the discussion.
So I think it's not kind of on the agenda this time. I think it's a violation of the Sunshine Law for us to be discussing a topic that is not on the agenda and so that's the way I would prefer to see that handled. And I think that's the best way."

 

From the moment Terence Brennan asked to make his presentation to the moment the Council turned to the next agenda item actually 28 minutes passed.

Listen to PART I of the taped meeting (8:08 minutes)

The 5-minute break actually lasted more than 9 minutes.

PART II (with vote) lasted 10:42 minutes

 

WHAT A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!

   

Asking for clarification of her opinion, I sent Barbara Edwards an e-mail and received this response: See: E-MAIL EXCHANGE!

 

Quoting the 2008 Government-In-The-Sunshine-Manual, prepared by the Office of the Attorney General, AGO 03- 53, would only fit if the Department would consider a discussion about enforcement of CAM regulations a controversial issue: "In the spirit of the Sunshine Law, the city commission should be sensitive to the community's concern that it be allowed advance notice and, therefore, meaningful participation on controversial issues coming before the commission." [2008 Sunshine Manual @ 41]

Especially considering that the next two meetings (February and May 2009) are scheduled as telephone conferences makes the argument brought by Ms. Edwards that the public can't participate since the presentation is not a public record pretty difficult to comprehend. How to hand these presentations to any listeners at a telephone meeting? And how can they "come to the  telephone meeting?"

The Council is supposed to make recommendations. How can that be achieved without the council members presenting their views and ideas for improvement? Looking at the AGENDA of the Tampa meeting and listening to the tape, we can clearly understand that 90% of the time is taken away by "reports" of Department staff, leaving very little time for the input of the council members, who were appointed by Governor Crist for that purpose. 

In my opinion using the excuse of a presentation by a council member being a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law is abusing the intent of this law. Isn't this powerful law supposed to bring SUNSHINE in our government -- but not to censor council members? 

COUNCIL MEMBERS WERE APPOINTED TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM -- A SYSTEM THAT IS OBVIOUSLY FLAWED -- BUT NOT TO SEE THEIR OPINIONS AND SUGGESTIONS TO BE CENSORED WITH THE HELP OF THE FLORIDA SUNSHINE LAW. 

WHERE IS THE SUNSHINE?


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