With the impending Workshop we present the Following:
Just food for Thought
The courts of the state of Florida on construing the law have read into the concept of an open meeting the right to be heard. In Board of Public Instruction of Broward County v. Doran, supra at 699, the Florida Supreme Court stated:
"The right of the public to be present and to be heard during all phases of enactments by boards and commissions is a source of strength in our country. . . . "Regardless of their good intentions, these specified boards and commission, through devious ways, should not be allowed to deprive the public of this inalienable right to be present and to be heard at all deliberations wherein decisions affecting the public are being made."
(e.s.)And even more expansively, in Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So.2d 473, 475 (Fla. 1974), the Supreme Court expostulated:
"Every meeting of any board, commission, agency or authority of a municipality should be a marketplace of ideas, so that the governmental agency may have sufficient input from the citizens who are going to be affected by the subsequent action of the municipality. The ordinary taxpayer can no longer be led blindly down the path of government, for the news media, by constantly reporting community affairs, has made the taxpayer aware of governmental problems. Government, more so now that ever before, should be responsive to the wishes of the public. These wishes could never be known in nonpublic meetings, and the governmental agencies would be deprived of the benefit of suggestions and ideas which may be advanced by the knowledgeable public."
(e.s.)The Court in Gradison at 475 went on to state:
"The taxpayer deserves an opportunity to express his views and have them considered in the decision-making process." See also, Krause v. Reno, 366 So. 2d 1244 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979), describing this public participation as the "citizen input factor" and stating that this public input was an important aspect of open meetings. And see, AGO 73-170, noting that the purpose of notice of a meeting subject to s. 286.011 is "to apprise individuals or the public generally of the pendency of matters which may affect their . . . rights, and afford them the opportunity to appear and present their views."
(e.s.) Thus, the right of the public to participate in open meetings, to present their views and to have some input into the decision-making process has been recognized by the courts of this state and by this office.
This informal advisory opinion was prepared by the Division of Opinions in an effort to be of assistance to you; it should not be considered a formal opinion of the Attorney General.Division of Opinions
Craig Willis Assistant Attorney General