This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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At the January 26, 2016 City Council meeting, a discussion was had where individual council members opined their support or opposition to a proposed City Charter change requiring a citywide referendum to raise Council Members’ salaries by some 400%.
Attached are the video of each Council Member who spoke on the subject.
Council Member Singer voted against the measure. All other Council Members and the Mayor voted in favor. Hence the item will be brought to the residents for a vote in the August elections for implementation, or not, in September 2016. So be it….but that is not the point here today….
In her comments, Mayor Haynie stated that the role of an elected official in our local government is much more than just two (2) council meetings per month. She offers, in part, as justification for the quadrupling of their salaries the following:
- a) The social demands from the non-profit events where elected officials are requested to attend, often complimentary, and,
- b) The outside third party agencies that each elected official has committed to participate on.
As to the social events, this is a red herring.
If an elected official wants to attend the social calendar of Boca Raton society, they should feel free to do so but to hold their social climbing and their hobnobbing for political purpose as reason for taxpayer contribution to higher salaries is just not acceptable….
In fact, these many social affairs may actually be the underlying cause for why some people have more influences in Boca Raton than others. As one who attends these society events regularly on his own dime, I can tell you that the conversations are often more than simply social graces…If one watches closely, one cannot help but see who is doing business with whom and who the elected officials are glad handed by….
As for the outside agencies upon which our city council members participate, Mayor Haynie points out that she, along with the four (4) council members, hold seats on some 13 different local, regional, and state agencies.
She firmly states that participation on these third party agencies is to “….represent the citizens of Boca Raton.” Really????
Some of these appointments are:
- Councilman Mullaugh – Chairs the Water Resources Board
- Councilman Singer – Florida League of Cities Economic Affairs Board
- Deputy Mayor Weinroth – Palm Tram Board and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
- Councilman Rogers – National League of Cities Technology Board
- Mayor Haynie – Incoming President – Florida League of Cities, Vice Chair – Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
The Mayor states that participating on these various boards and committees is to “…protect home rule”, “….bring home funds”, and, “…develop valuable relationships for Boca Raton.” Again, really????
Last week, George O’Rourke reported that there is a movement in Tallahassee supported by the Florida League of Cities to make access to public records more difficult and potentially more expensive for the citizen (see article). The merit of such a legislative initiative is not being discussed here.
The question, here, that begs to be answered is how does the Mayor and/or the Council Members know what position to take within these third party organizations’ actions?
I have been following closely the Boca Raton government for years and cannot remember if ever there was an open discussion on any matter that may come in front of these other agencies that our elected officials sit on….
I cannot remember the public ever being informed on the results of the deliberations at these third party agencies in which our elected officials participate ostensibly representing the citizens of Boca Raton and/or how these agencies’ actions might affect the citizens of Boca Raton.
In the Florida League of Cities case reported last week, the Boca Raton resident has had no advanced idea on how Mayor Haynie, the incoming President of the League of Cities, has voted on the League’s position on a topic that may have dramatic effects on the resident. Only after this issue has been brought to the attention of the public and residents demanded explanation, the residents were offered some insight into her position.
In her letter below, Mayor Haynie offers reasoning for supporting a resident unfriendly legislative change. But to the main point today, where are the guidelines for how our elected officials are to vote on matters of this sort without an open dialogue in City Hall chambers where the entire council can participate and with community input from the public.
I do not remember ever having that public discussion!!!!!
For that matter, since Council Member Singer and Mayor Haynie are both on the Florida League of Cities have they discussed her position for these changes to the public record law?…and, if they have, do they concur with her endorsement of this policy as being in the best interest of our citizens of Boca Raton?
I think not….actually I hope not, as such a concurrence may lead to an even more interesting inquiry!!!!!
These are not rhetorical questions.
The example of the Florida League of Cities is now a surface level discussion out in the public domain. However, there are other items that are of great import to Boca Raton citizens.
For instance, being a voting member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), has direct impacts on roadways and traffic matters in Boca Raton not to mention railroad matters like Tri-Rail and All-Aboard Florida.
To have our elected officials participate in such critical discussions, in the words of the Mayor “as representatives of the citizens of Boca Raton”, there should be public dialogue to provide guidance and direction as to what position is in the collective best interest of the citizens.
A unilateral position taken by an elected official in these third party deliberations is NOT acting in the best interest of the citizens….
Transparency in government is the goal….acting in a Star Chamber manner is not only not transparent but may actually be in violation of the spirit and letter of the law….
Al Zucaro, publisher
Below email exchange from Boca resident and Mayor Haynie
From: Haynie, Susan [mailto:SHaynie@ci.boca-raton.fl.us]
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 5:21 PM
To: ‘James Wood’
Subject: RE: Oppose HB 1021 and SB 1220
Thank you for your email expressing concern regarding CS/CS/SB 1220. The support for this proposed legislation originated from the FLC Urban Administration Legislative Policy Committee, comprised of 64 members. FLC Legislative Priorities are ultimately ratified by the FLC Board of Directors, 55 members, and them approved by the entire general membership, consisting of representatives from Florida’s 411 municipalities.
The Florida League of Cities believes that access to public records is a fundamental right. While every city incurs some level of expenses in complying with public records requests, numerous cities have incurred extraordinary or unreasonable costs. The proposed legislation is an effort to protect Cities, and ultimately the tax payers, from records requests clearly designed to be harassing in nature (either by the frequency of requests or the extent of any particular request); and requests designed to do nothing more than serve as the basis of a lawsuit, typically with offers to the city to settle and pay attorney’s fees and costs.
CS/HB 1021 (Steube) allows a judge to review the facts of a public records lawsuit and determine whether or not attorney fees should be awarded to a complainant. Current law requires that attorney fees be awarded to the complainant when a public agency has been found to have violated the public records law. The bill also requires that complainants provide written notice to the agency’s custodian of records at least five business days before filing a civil action in order to be eligible to receive attorney fees in a public records lawsuit.
CS/CS/SB 1220 (Garcia) was amended to clarify when a judge shall award attorney fees as well as specifies those circumstances where attorney fees may not be awarded in public records related cases. Additionally, the bill adds in a provision requiring a public agency to post the contact information of the custodian of records either in their primary administrative office or on the agency website.
Below are two examples of issues with public records laws:
- Town of Gulf Stream: Since 2013, the town has received more than 2,500 public records requests and has been the subject of 42 different public records lawsuits. The town has expended over $350,000 in litigation defense.
- Two related “public records” seeking entities, have filed more than 140 lawsuits in 27 counties within one year (against governmental entities and those having contracts with governmental entities).
Thank you for your interest.
Susan Haynie | Mayor
City of Boca Raton
201 W. Palmetto Park Road • Boca Raton, FL 33432
P 561-393-7708 | email@example.com
From: James Wood [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 7:46 PM
To: Haynie, Susan
Subject: Oppose HB 1021 and SB 1220
Dear Mayor Haynie,
Due to your position as a high-level member of the Florida League of Cities and member of the legislative committee, I request that you publicly withdraw your support of HB 1021 and SB 1220 as these bills do more harm to your constituency than good. This bill effectively diminishes the right of citizens to participate in the political process through public records request. The possibility of carrying the burden of legal expense even when a claim is justified is unjust. Further, while this bill may be intended to thwart those that attempt to “game” the system upon passage, it may also serve to encourage local government officials to now “game” the system by instituting undue delay in record requests.
Do not harm the many in the attempt to punish the few.
Thank you, Jim and Trish Wood