Florida court says “open to the public” doesn’t mean citizens can speak up    

Steve Zikman brought an interesting article to my attention today, suggesting we share it with the network…

In a brief article titled “Appeals court rejects public comment time” at PNJ.com, a Florida appeals court upheld a year-old judgment that, in essence, found that government meetings required to be “open to the public” don’t necessarily have to give citizens a chance to speak at them.

View the whole article here at PNJ.com, but I’ve copied it below so we have an archive of it.  Please comment on this post and share what you think about this judgment and its implications. 

Appeals court rejects public comment time

Judges rule Community Maritime Park Associates violated no laws

• Paul Flemming • News Journal capital bureau • March 11, 2010 •

TALLAHASSEE — Government meetings have to be open to the public, but that doesn’t mean citizens have a right to speak at them, a Florida appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Pensacola activists had filed suit against Community Maritime Park Associates, saying the board’s decisions about a $40 million museum and waterfront park should be nullified because public-comment periods at its meetings were inadequate.

“Appellants have failed to point to any case construing the phrase ‘open to the public’ to grant the public the right to speak,” the unanimous three-judge panel wrote in its opinion released today. “We agree with the trial court that the remedy Appellants are seeking in this case is more appropriately left to the legislative process or the local public officials.”

“The statute itself is, I think, clear,” said Ed Fleming, attorney for the Community Maritime Park board. “It doesn’t convert (open, public meetings) into town hall meetings. If it were, government would grind to a halt.”

The Community Maritime Park Board initially did not offer public comment at its meetings but later did so at the direction of Pensacola City Council, which appointed some of the park board’s members.

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