By: Sharon Aron Baron
Dear Attorney General Bondi:
I am writing to request an AGO (Attorney General Opinion) with respect to the application of the requirement in Florida Statute 286.0114 to provide the public with a reasonable opportunity to be heard at public meetings. Subsection (2) of that statute provides:
2) Members of the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission. The opportunity to be heard need not occur at the same meeting at which the board or commission takes official action on the proposition if the opportunity occurs at a meeting that is during the decision making process and is within reasonable proximity in time before the meeting at which the board or commission takes the official action. This section does not prohibit a board or commission from maintaining orderly conduct or proper decorum in a public meeting. The opportunity to be heard is subject to rules or policies adopted by the board or commission, as provided in subsection (4).
The City of Tamarac is willfully not allowing public comment at their public workshops and special meetings. Moreover, there is no designated section printed on their workshop or special meeting agendas indicating the time for public comment although Section 2-29 of the Code requires them to publish such information on their agenda.
I am the editor of a website called Tamaractalk.com which reports news and events to residents in our city, and had even pointed this omission out in one of my articles.
Subsequently, at their very next workshop, the Mayor announced that they would permit public comments. However, since that meeting, the city has since failed to notice a time for public comment on the agendas for their workshops and special meetings.
It is important to note, that the city uses the workshop format to discuss items for the very next Commission meeting. Thus, the “real” business of the city takes place at these workshops. See the link below:
Moreover, the city has adopted an ordinance governing public comments at public meetings.
City of Tamarac Code of ordinances Sec. 2-29(d)(2) clearly provides for public comment on workshop items.
(d) Rules governing conduct of spectators at commission meetings. Members of the public may speak at city commission meetings during public hearings or at a time to be specified by the mayor or presiding officer or during the period set aside for public discussion on the city commission agenda subject to the following:
(1) Members of the public may speak only at times designated by the mayor or presiding officer.
(2) The mayor or presiding officer may limit the total time allotted to public discussion and the total number of speakers during discussion on any ordinance, resolution, motion, workshop item, or discussion item and may limit the time allotted to each speaker during discussion on any ordinance, resolution, motion, workshop item, or discussion item, or during the time designated on the city commission agenda for public discussion.
(3) When a matter has been designated as quasi-judicial, public remarks shall be limited to the quasi-judicial public hearing.
(4) Members of the public shall address only the topic being discussed as determined by the mayor or presiding officer unless discussion is pursuant to the public discussion item on the city commission agenda.
(5) Disruptive, belligerent or abusive conduct by any member of the public is prohibited and shall not be permitted.
(Code 1975, ｧ 2-11; Ord. No. 91-1, ｧ 1, 1-23-91; Ord. No. 96-9, ｧ 2, 6-26-96)
Despite this section in their Code which provides for public comment at all workshop meetings, the city is not providing this reasonable opportunity to be heard to our residents.
I would greatly appreciate your interpretation of the application of the statutory requirement for a reasonable opportunity for the public to be heard at workshop and special meetings in the City of Tamarac.Respectfully, Sharon Aron Baron Editor