News & Features » News

Sunshine setting?


Sen. W.D. Childers (R-Pensacola) has introduced an amendment to the state's Sunshine Law to create a new exemption of the open-meetings rule to cover "imminent" litigation. Currently the law allows public officials to meet in secret to discuss only pending litigation -- meaning lawsuits that actually have been filed. The "imminent" rule -- the word is not defined in the bill -- would allow secret meetings for virtually any reason, according to Barbra Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a press watchdog group.

The bill calls for the exemption to be "liberally construed," meaning that public officials could cite it any time they want to close a meeting to the public. Any complaints that a meeting was closed wrongly would be met with the claim that officials made "a good-faith attempt to comply" with the law; the bill says this shall be "a complete defense to any challenge." If the officials are found to have violated the open-meetings law as imagined by Childers' bill, they may be fined no more than $500. Says Petersen: "Why not simply repeal the Sunshine Law?"

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.