"I understand it’s already been decided.”
     I hear these words far more frequently than any taxpayer or reporter covering town hall should.
    Florida law requires elected officials and government employees to operate in a way that is transparent and accountable to their constituents.
    Yet, I frequently overhear pre- and post-meeting discussions on topics scheduled for public meetings. I hear (and hear about) discussions in parking lots, at fundraising events, at condo board meetings and even, on occasion, right on the dais before and after meetings.
    Most of time, I shake my head and sigh. I know it’s difficult to follow the guidelines and often these discussions don’t have any significant impact on the residents.
    But sometimes they do. Sometimes jobs are lost and careers are damaged. Sometimes projects are approved or killed without public input.
And when this happens the taxpayers are the ones left holding the bill.
    It needs to stop.
    Commissioners need to stop emailing, calling and texting each other about town issues. They need to stop using behind-the-scenes power brokers, spouses or town staff to pass along information on how they plan to vote.
    Town clerks and managers need to stop “polling” commissioners prior to meetings. They should not be discussing how anyone plans to vote on an issue. They should be operating above the personalities and personal agendas of residents and commissioners.
    When they don’t, the taxpayer pays. And it doesn’t matter if the taxpayer (or the newspaper editor) agrees or disagrees with the final vote.
    If “it’s already been decided,” it’s against the law.

Mary Kate Leming
Editor

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Comments

  • All citizens have "standing" when it comes to bringing complaints about this kind of unlawful behavior before a judge in court as the Mayor of Gulf Stream is about to find out. As well the Palm Beach County Inspector General and the Florida Commission on Ethics will investigate a legitimate complaint. Then there is the State Attorney whose job it is to prosecute this type of behavior. I am not a lawyer. I am not giving anyone legal advice. I AM sharing what I know to be true and my own personal experience.

    Many people are apathetic, some just like to complain and leave it to others to do the heavy lifting. But if you have any evidence proving this type of illegal behavior then do something about it. Don’t just ring your hands and whine “it needs to stop.” Make it stop by calling people out on it; report it to authority; sue them in court. Oh, and when you do actively try to right this wrong, be prepared to get smeared.

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