Friday, March 25, 2016

Florida Sunshine Law and the Belle Isle Sun

The Belle Isle City Council election results were certified today by the Orange County Canvassing Board, meaning that I am now officially your commissioner-elect for Belle Isle District 3. As a commissioner-elect, I fall under the purview of the Florida Sunshine Law. Many readers have wondered what this means and how it will affect future publication of the Belle Isle Sun.

Although there are many nuances to the Florida Sunshine Law, the basics are very simple. Communications with any city official regarding issues that could potentially come to a vote before the city council are governed by the Sunshine Law and may be requested by the public. Communications with city accounts and devices are generally assumed to be public records regardless of content, so please be mindful of this when communicating with your elected officials.

To ensure full compliance with the Sunshine Law, I will only be using my city-issued phone and email accounts to discuss city business. Therefore, I am no longer monitoring the contact@belleislesun.org email account. To contact me regarding city business in the future, please use my official Belle Isle email address or phone number, soon to be issued and listed on the City of Belle Isle website. Please note that based on Florida's Sunshine Law requirements, all communications with city email and phone accounts will be archived as public records subject to request.

With regard to future publication of the Belle Isle Sun, Florida law clearly states that there is no problem. In Advisory Legal Opinion 2008-07, the Florida Attorney General spells out the guidelines for a city council member operating and publishing on a private website. As it relates to publication of the Belle Isle Sun, the opinion states that a city council member may operate and publish on a private website regarding city issues, so long as other city council members do not respond to the posts.

Responses from other city council members are not an issue here because the Belle Isle Sun does not accept reader comments. This policy not only avoids the need to moderate user content for profanity, but also eliminates any possibility of our commissioners using the Sun to communicate regarding city business.

I look forward to providing residents with important information about our city through the Belle Isle Sun whenever necessary. However, my hope is that as we continue working to improve city communications, residents will be able to find more and more of the information they seek through official city sources.

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