DECEMBER 2002: Oak Hill City commissioners Ron Mercer and Bob Jackson pleaded not guilty to violating the Sunshine Law. The two men were accused of meeting privately and discussing city business, including the appointment of a mayor and department heads, over a seven-month span.
DECEMBER 2002: Welaka mayor, Gordon Sands, has been charged by the State Attorney’s Office with violating the Open Meetings Law. Sands was accused of meeting with former council member Shirley Gillins in 2000 in order to discuss votes for an upcoming public meeting. If found guilty, Sands may have to pay attorney’s fees and $500 in fines.
NOVEMBER 2002: Circuit Court Judge John Booth ruled that the Hernando County had violated the Sunshine Law by keeping the public from taking part in a meeting of the Development Review Committee in Brooksville. Booth ordered that future meetings be open to the public for all who want to participate.
NOVEMBER 2002: Two Kissimmee city commissioners were charged with violating Florida’s Open Meetings Law. Wendell McKinnon and Bob Makinson reportedly met in private and discussed their plans for a future public meeting. The civil charges carry fines of up to $500 each and a maximum of 60 days in jail. The commissioners, however, were only fined $50 each. (See March also 2003)
OCTOBER 2002: Welaka Mayor Gordon Sands was charged by the State Attorney’s Office with violating the Open Meetings Law. Sands was accused of meeting with former council member Shirley Gillins in 2000 in order to discuss votes for an upcoming public meeting. If found guilty, Sands may have to pay attorney’s fees and $500 in fines.
OCTOBER 2002: Belleair Beach Councilmember Frank Lombardi has been accused of breaking the Sunshine Law. According to council members Lynn Rives and Mary Jo Henderson, Lombardi attempted to discuss matters of new officers outside of official meetings. Rives filed the complaint the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County.
SEPTEMBER 2002: Three Escambia County Commissioners reached plea agreements in connection with charges of bribery and violating the Sunshine Law. Commissioner Willie Junior agreed to plead guilty to 12 charges including bribery and violation of the Sunshine Laws and agreed to testify against fellow commissioner W.D. Childers. Junior could have been sentenced up to 125 years in prison but will serve a maximum of 18 months in exchange for his testimony. Commissioner Mike Bass pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of violating the Sunshine Law. His felony counts were dropped. Bass must pay a $500 fine for each of the two counts and must pay investigative costs of around $3,000. Sentencing will occur after Bass testifies against Childers. Bass originally faced up to 70 years in prison, but after agreeing to testify his maximum possible jail sentence was reduced to 60 days. Commissioner Terry Smith was found guilty on two counts of violating the Sunshine Law. He was required to pay fines and court costs totaling $4,987 and was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. (See also June 2002, August 2002, June 2003, December 2004)
AUGUST 2002: Escambia County commissioner and former state senator W.D. Childers was found guilty on one count of violating the state’s Open Meetings law. Childers stands accused of discussing public business with fellow commissioners in private on four separate occasions and conferring with fellow commissioners about redistricting. He was declared not guilty on two other Open Meetings counts. Childers was indicted on four misdemeanor Sunshine charges and felony counts of money laundering, bribery and unlawful compensation of a public official. The trial for his felony charges was set for March 2003. (See also June 2002, September 2002, June 2003, October 2004, December 2004)
AUGUST 2002: Daytona Beach’s community relations advisory panel met illegally, violating the Open Meetings Law, by not giving proper notice to the public. The council plans to “cure” the violation by holding the meeting once again, according to Chairman Tom Vogel.
JULY 2002: Clark V. Hoshall Jr. filed suit against Nassau County commissioners, alleging that they were holding meetings in secret for over four years. However, the commissioners did not violate the Public Records law, according to a lower court decision, which was upheld by the 1st District Court of Appeal.
JUNE 2002: Four Escambia County commissioners were arrested on multiple charges, including violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. Mike Bass, W.D. Childers, Willie J. Junior and Terry Smith were indicted and charged with multiple misdemeanor counts of violations of Florida’s Open Meetings Law. Each misdemeanor count is punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. (See also August 2002, September 2002, June 2003, October 2004, December 2004)
MARCH 2002: Ormond Beach commissioners Jeff Boyle, Joyce High and Jim Privett faced a lawsuit from The News-Journal Corporation, which accused the three of violating Florida’s laws concerning open government by illegally communicating about city business.
FEBRUARY 2002: Chiefland City Commissioner Sunshine Baynard filed a civil suit against the Chiefland City Commission for violating the Sunshine Law. Baynard claimed that an emergency meeting was held, without proper notification to the public, during which the Commission voted to postpone the search for a new Chiefland chief of police. (See also February 2003)