About the Brechner Center

"The Brechner Center is an invaluable, hands-on resource not only for working journalists -- but for future journalists, as well. For my journalism courses at the University of Miami, I copy large sections of Brechner's A Citizen's Guide to Government in the Sunshine for students, and heavily cite the Guide's contents while lecturing on the importance of Florida's Public Records Law."

Ronnie Greene,
Veteran investigative reporter & Urban Affairs Editor, The Miami Herald
Adjunct Professor of Journalism, University of Miami

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


Open Meetings

1. Are legislators required to publicize future meetings?

2. Where can a public meeting be held?

3.Can the public body holding the meeting restrict attendance, tape recorders or cameras?

4. What should I do if a meeting is improperly closed?

5. What if officials continue to refuse to open a meeting after receiving a formal request to make it open?


1. Are legislators required to publicize future meetings?
Another constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 1990, requires legislators to adopt procedural rules ensuring that meetings of committees, subcommittees and joint-conference committees are open and the public is notified. The constitutionally required rules also provide that informal, pre-arranged meetings of three or more legislators, or meetings involving legislative leaders and the governor, must be open where formal action is taken or agreed to be taken later. However, the amendment does not require notice of these informal meetings.


The public must be notified about public meetings. Notice should include the meeting’s time, place and the agenda, if available. The notice should be prominently displayed in the agency’s offices or meeting area.
Example of a government body’s announcement of a public meeting to the public

Back to the top

2. Where can a public meeting be held?
The Sunshine Law does not specify where a public meeting may be held, but it does prohibit facilities that discriminate on the basis of sex, age, race, creed, color, origin, or economic status, or which unreasonably restrict public access. Private buildings, even if open to the public, should be used only as a last resort. The goal, as always, should be maximum public attendance at the meeting. Also, boards and commissions generally must meet at or near their headquarters, or within their jurisdiction.

Back to the top


3. Can the public body holding the meeting restrict attendance, tape recorders or cameras?
While bodies may institute reasonable rules to ensure orderly conduct at meetings, they should take reasonable steps to ensure that the facility will accommodate the anticipated turnout. Attendance at the meeting cannot be restricted, and the public body cannot prohibit tape recorders or cameras unless they are disruptive.


CASE IN POINT: In 2002, A Florida court found that a school board violated the sunshine law by not allowing unobtrusive videotaping of its public meeting. The court found that the board did not have unfettered authority to deny videotaping of its otherwise public meetings. Pinellas County Sch. Bd. v. Suncam, Inc., CASE NO. 2D01-4251 , COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, SECOND DISTRICT , 829 So. 2d 989; 2002 Fla. App.

Back to the top


4. What should I do if a meeting is improperly closed?
If it is known in advance that a meeting will be closed in violation of the Sunshine Law, the chairperson of the public body or its attorney should be notified. If time permits, the notice should be in writing. The written request should inform the public body of its duties under the Sunshine Law and should ask the public body to cite the exemption it is relying upon to close the meeting. The written notice may be sent by certified mail to ensure proof of receipt by the public body. See A Citizen’s Guide, page 12, for an example.

Back to the top


5. What if officials continue to refuse to open a meeting after receiving a formal request to make it open?
A circuit court may issue an injunction to prevent the closed meeting. Citizens may contact the State Attorney’s office in the appropriate judicial circuit or a private attorney to request help with securing an injunction or other legal action.

Back to the top