By: Sharon Aron Baron
Public trust is critical in a city and Tamarac prides itself in committing to transparency. However, their efforts fail when they don’t duly notice residents when their public meetings are to take place.
On Tuesday, January 14, the city held a Strategic Planning meeting, but nothing on their website, Tam A Gram, or email was sent out to notify its citizens. The only place that listed the meeting was on a paper calendar that a resident could pick up – only if they visited city hall.
Tamarac conducts Strategic Planning yearly. It is how we plan for the future; whether that is two months from now, or twenty years. It entails saving for a rainy day and investing in our future. It allows us the flexibility to respond quickly to immediate concerns and to plan for future projects and needs.” – From the Tamarac City website
I only found out about the Strategic Planning meeting after a reporter called from the Sun Sentinel Wednesday asking my thoughts about the parks being reopened on Mondays. This was a exciting news to me as I have been writing about our park closures on Monday’s since I started Tamarac Talk. She told me she learned the news at the Strategic Meeting. I told her I didn’t know anything about the meeting and figured I just overlooked it. I dug deeper and found out that this meeting wasn’t even published outside of the city.
So how did the reporter know about the Strategic Meeting? She didn’t. She said she only found out about it because a commissioner tipped her off.
City Commits to Transparency: The City of Tamarac is committed to ensuring that the residents have open and easy access to information that demonstrates how elected officials and city government staff conduct business.” – From the City of Tamarac website
According to the Attorney General’s office, a vital element of the Sunshine Law is the requirement that boards subject to the law provide “reasonable notice” of all meetings. See s. 286.011(1), F.S. Even before the statutory amendment in 1995 expressly requiring notice, the courts had stated that in order for a public meeting to be in essence “public,” reasonable notice of the meeting must be given. In each case, an agency must give notice at such time and in such a manner as will enable the media and the general public to attend the meeting.
So what took place at the meeting?
I put in an email to city manager Michael Cernech asking why this meeting wasn’t properly publicized. Hopefully, I will have an answer soon. Stay posted.
Update: I didn’t hear back from the city manager, but I did hear back from the City Clerk Pat Teufel who copied him along with the City Attorney and wrote:
The Strategic Planning Meeting that was held on Tuesday, January 14th was publicly noticed in multiple places:
– City Hall (in the atrium area where all meetings are noticed)
– Recreation Center
– Printed on the calendar on the counter by the entrance to City Hall
The meetings were recorded – on audio – and the public can purchase CDs of the meeting which was long for $1 each from the City Clerk’s office.
They have met their requirements by Florida Statute, but they are sorely lacking in their communication efforts to the people and citizens that they work for. The proof is in the pudding because there were very few people in attendance.
Also, with all the technology that our city has, they couldn’t upload the audio, suggesting that I purchase the CD from the city clerk’s office. What was that they said on their website about open and easy access to information?