I PROMISED A REHASH OF MY ARGUMENT FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE SUNSHINE LAW BY THE TOWN AND BY SPENCER LOFTON.

HERE IT IS, ORIGINALLY FILED JULY 31, 2018

emailed 31 July 2018 at 10 PM

Joe Griffin <godforjoe@gmail.com>
Jul 31, 2018, 10:05 PM
to slofton, Stacy, Stacy, Pam, Karen, Dana

CITIZEN COMPLAINT

The Complainant JOE GRIFFIN (GRIFFIN) by himself files this request against both Mayor Spencer Lofton (Lofton) of the TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS, FLORIDA AND the TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS, FLORDA (Town) seeking REDRESS relief for violations of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, Florida Statute 286.011 and Florida Constitutional provision Part One Section 24.

FACTS

1. This is a claim of violations of Florida Statute 286.011 committed by Lofton in conducting an investigative action without Council approval, on a matter that has three times come before the ruling Board. The Board (Town) did approve his activity after the fact when they verified and accepted his activity on July 10th 2018.

2. It is alleged that an activity took place that allowed Lofton to decide, based upon facts discovered, to make a personal in the darkness decision in response to the in the darkness activity (investigation). The personal decisions were to deny the Complaint and to make the decision himself only that no violation of the Sunshine Law had occurred. The Council and public were never given a notice of the investigatory activity, the public nor Council members were not allowed to attend and minutes were not taken of the activity. The legal basis for this request for this action is found in the Government in the Sunshine Manual[1]

3. In sunshine law cases the mere showing that the law has been violated constitutes “irreparable public injury.”[2] The Complainant’s burden is to “establish by the greater weight of the evidence” that a meeting which should have been held in the sunshine took place on the date alleged[3] which, is alleged, was held on or about 4 July 2018 for Lofton and 10 July 2018 for the Town.

4. Lofton and the town are both subject to Florida Statute 286.011.[4]

5. Efforts to bring these alleged violations of the Sunshine Law to a reasonable outcome have gone unresponded to by the Town Council despite Section 10.04[5] of the Town Charter requiring advance notification of pending legal action. Complainant is denied the right to put item on agenda even though the Charter requires such a placement and discussion.

This information should come from the audio minutes of the Council meeting of 12 June and10 July 2018 which are would have been transcribed if they hadn’t been deleted by town staff. It is impossible for the tape machine to break down in two meetings in a row at the same place in two successive meetings. Such tampering with the evidence is a felony of the third degree.[6]

According to Lofton speaking to the town council (Town) in the audio recording the purpose of the activity was to “take evidence” of the Citizen’s Complaint allegations, Enclosure one using Lofton’s own words “To investigate the Claims” raised in the complaint.

The Town voted along with Lofton by a 3 to 2 vote allowing and verifying AFTER THE COMISSION OF THE ACT, to conduct his activity out of the Sunshine without Council approval before the act.

All “investigations” by a public board must be conducted in the Sunshine[7]

All investigative meetings by a public board must be conducted in the Sunshine.[8]

Thus Lofton’s investigative activity is void ab initio[9] because his investigatory acts for the Town were not done in the Sunshine.

The “dispositive question” is whether the committee OF ONE, Lofton by himself, had been delegated by himself or the Town “decision-making authority,” as opposed to mere “information-gathering or fact-finding authority.” “Where the committee has been delegated decision-making authority, the committee’s meetings must be open to public scrutiny, regardless of the review procedures eventually used by the traditional governmental body.”[10]

Lofton’s “committee of one” made decisions to nullify the complaint and he found that no Sunshine Law violation occurred based upon the facts he learned and believed from his private one man activity.

The activity (investigative inquiry) was not allowed to be responded to by Complainant; no due process was had by Complainant.

It is the nature of the act itself not the make-up of the committee which determines a whether a committee is merely fact-finding or if it had decision making authority[11] Lofton’s own decisions to adjudicate the Citizen’s Complaint himself without due process make his actions decision-making and not fact-finding.

Lofton conducted the ACTIVITY (investigative inquiry) without Council approval or knowledge. His reasoning was that Complainant had sent the Complaint to all council members and none complained ostensibly OR PERHAPS because of the Sunshine Law. A council member WOULD NOT complain if the Council member was unaware that an investigation is happening.

The town Charter says that investigations must be done by the Council as a whole, section 2.04[12].

Lofton made two decisions. #1 No violation of the Sunshine Law occurred. #2 to reject the complaint without council approval.

Since the Sunshine Law (FS 286.011) provides that actions of a public board are not valid unless they are made at an open public meeting, Lofton’s results of his investigative activity are not valid; they are void from the beginning. Lofton, because of his assumption of singular power, “stood in the shoes of the public board”.[13] Whether the Board knew it or not is immaterial as far as the Sunshine Law goes. He made decisions for the board based upon his one sided findings.

A single member of a board who has been delegated the authority to negotiate the terms of a lease on behalf of the board “is subject to the sunshine law and, therefore, cannot negotiate for such a lease in secret.”[14] Lofton was not delegated to conduct an investigative activity yet he did so and the results of that one sided investigative activity did three times come before the Council as a whole whom ratified his in the darkness activities.

When an individual member of a public board, or a board member and the executive director of the board, conducts a hearing or investigatory proceeding on behalf of the entire board, the hearing or proceeding must be held in the sunshine.[15]

Minutes and Notice of the investigation do not exist nor was the Public or even members of the Council allowed to attend.4

Complainant, over the last 5 years, has submitted more than 10 Citizen Complaints to the town. Not a one of them was fact-found or investigated either in the Darkness or in the Sunshine making the Council (Town) complicit in Lofton’s rogue investigation of this most recent complaint. They, the Council, had no investigative activities at all, legal or illegal, as far as Complainants are concerned. Other Citizen Complaints, submitted by other citizens, have been investigated “in the sunshine” by the Council but not the Complainant’s.

WHEREFORE, Lofton and the Town are both subject to the Florida Statute 286.011 and neglected to follow its provisions. Lofton appointed himself as a committee of one and made two decisions in violation of the Sunshine Law. His actions were approved after the fact by the Council (Town) as a whole. Thus his actions must be considered void ab initio. The Investigation must be re-held in the Sunshine according to Florida Statute 286.011. Complainant pleads that the Council to make an addition to the Charter that prohibits the Town from adjudication any Citizen Complaint out of the Sunshine in the future. Complainant also prays of the Council a finding that the Sunshine Law was broken by Lofton and the Town and conducts a redo of the investigation as is required by Law and issues Ordinance prohibiting all such in the darkness investigations in the future.

[1] Section 286.011(2), F.s., states that the circuit courts have jurisdiction to issue injunctions upon application by any citizen of this state. See Allen v. United Faculty of Miami-Dade College, 197 so. 3d 604 (Fla. 3rd DCa 2016) (Public employees relations Commission [PerC] properly dismissed unfair labor practice charge alleging a violation of the sunshine law, as s. 286.011, F.s., is enforceable only by the courts, not by PerC).

While normally irreparable injury must be proved by the plaintiff before an injunction may be issued, in sunshine law cases the mere showing that the law has been violated constitutes “irreparable public injury.” Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 so. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974); and Times Publishing Company v. Williams, 222 so. 2d 470 (Fla. 2d DCa 1969), disapproved in part on other grounds, Neu v. Miami Herald Publishing Company, 462 so. 2d 821 (Fla. 1985). The plaintiff’s burden is to “establish by the greater weight of the evidence” that a meeting which should have been held in the sunshine took place on the date alleged. Lyon v. Lake County, 765 so. 2d 785, 789 (Fla. 5th DCa 2000).

A complaint for injunctive relief must allege by name or sufficient description the identity of the public official with whom the defendant public official has violated the sunshine law. Deerfield Beach Publishing, Inc. v. Robb, 530 so. 2d 510 (Fla. 4th DCa 1988). And see Forehand v. School Board of Gulf County, Florida, 600 so. 2d 1187 (Fla. 1st DCa 1992) (plaintiff was not denied a fair and impartial hearing because the board only briefly deliberated in public before a vote was taken as there was no evidence that the board had privately deliberated on this issue); and Law and Information Services v. City of Riviera Beach, 670 so. 2d 1014 (Fla. 4th DCa 1996) (patent speculation, absent any allegation that a nonpublic meeting in fact occurred, is insufficient to state a cause of action).

Although a court cannot issue a blanket order enjoining any violation of the sunshine law based upon a finding that the law was violated in particular respects, a court may enjoin a future violation that bears some resemblance to the past violation. See Board of Public Instruction of Broward County v. Doran, 224 so. 2d 693, 699-700 (Fla. 1969), Port Everglades Authority v. International Longshoremen’s Association, Local 1922-1, 652 so. 2d 1169, 1173 (Fla. 4th DCa 1995), and Citizens for Sunshine, Inc. v. Martin County School Board, 125 so. 3d 184 (Fla. 4th DCa 2013). See also Wood v. Marston, 442 so. 2d 934 (Fla. 1983) (trial court’s permanent injunction affirmed). Compare Leach-Wells v. City of Bradenton, 734 so. 2d 1168, 1170n. 1 (Fla. 2d DCa 1999), in which the court noted that had a citizen appealed the trial court’s denial of her motion for temporary injunction based on a selection committee’s alleged violation of the sunshine law, the appellate court “would have had the opportunity to review this matter before the project was completed and to direct that the City be enjoined from entering into a final contract with the developer until after such time as the ranking of the proposals could be accomplished in compliance with the sunshine law.”

The future conduct must be “specified, with such reasonable definiteness and certainty that the defendant could readily know what it must refrain from doing without speculation and conjecture.” Port Everglades Authority v. International Longshoremen’s Association, Local 1922-1, supra, quoting from Board of Public Instruction v. Doran, 224 so. 2d 693, 699 (Fla. 1969). And see Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, no. 502007Ca007552XXXXmB (Fla. 15th Cir. Ct. June 9, 2009), per curiam affirmed, 46 so. 3d 573 (Fla. 4th DCa 2010) (injunctive relief against future violations of city to record minutes of certain meetings appropriate in light of city’s past conduct and consistent refusal to record such minutes even after being advised to do so by the city attorney and because the city “has continuously taken the legal position that local governments are not required by the sunshine law to record minutes”).

[2] Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 so. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974); and Times Publishing Company v. Williams, 222 so. 2d 470 (Fla. 2d DCa 1969), disapproved in part on other grounds, Neu v. Miami Herald Publishing Company, 462 so. 2d 821 (Fla. 1985).

[3] . Lyon v. Lake County, 765 so. 2d 785, 789 (Fla. 5th DCa 2000).

[4] Florida Statute 286.011 Florida’s government in the sunshine law, s. 286.011, F.S.., commonly referred to as the sunshine law, provides a right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions at both the state and local levels. The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed boards, … to discuss some matter which will foresee ably come before that board for action.

(1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public;

(2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and

(3) Minutes of the meetings must be taken and promptly recorded.

[5]Section 10.04 Suits Against the Town No Suit or action at law, or equity of any kind or nature whatsoever, against the Town shall be instituted against the Town unless a written statement giving the particular of the alleged cause of action containing a notice of intention to sue, shall be filed with the Town Council at least thirty (30) days before the suit or action is instituted. Nothing herein is intended to waive the Town’s rights of sovereign immunity and notice in any action specifically provided for by general law.

[6] Florida Statute 838.022(1)(a) and (b)

[7] See Wood v. Marston, 442 so. 2d 934, 938 (Fla. 1983).

[8] ago 74-84; and Canney v. Board of Public Instruction of Alachua County, 278 so. 2d 260 (Fla. 1973).

[9] recognizing that the sunshine law should be construed so as to frustrate all evasive devices, the courts have held that action taken in violation of the law is void ab initio. Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 so. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974). Accord Sarasota Citizens For Responsible Government v. City of Sarasota, 48 so. 3d 755, 762 (Fla. 2010), noting that “where officials have violated section 286.011, the official action is void ab initio.” See Silver Express Company v. District Board of Lower Tribunal Trustees, 691 so. 2d 1099 (Fla. 3d DCa 1997) (selection committee rankings resulting from a meeting held in violation of the sunshine law are void ab initio and agency enjoined from entering into contract based on such rankings); TSI Southeast, Inc. v. Royals, 588 so. 2d 309 (Fla. 1st DCa 1991) (contract for sale and purchase of real property voided because board failed to properly notice the meeting under s. 286.011, F.s.); Grapski v. City of Alachua, 31 so. 3d 193 (Fla. 1st DCa 2010), review denied, 47 so. 3d 1288 (Fla. 2010) (by failing to open its minutes to public inspection and copying in a timely and reasonable manner, prejudice is presumed and therefore city’s approval of minutes is null and void ab initio); and Brown v. Denton, 152 so. 3d 8 (Fla. 1st DCa 2014), review denied, no. sC14-2490 (Fla. February 24, 2016) (upholding trial court ruling that voided an agreement reached after closed- door mediation sessions which resulted in changes to pension benefits of city employees in certain unions).

[10] Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Sarasota, 48 so. 3d 755, 762 (Fla. 2010).

[11] News-Press Publishing Company, Inc. v. Carlson, 410 so. 2d 546, 548 (Fla. 2d DCa 1982), concluding that it would be “ludicrous” to hold that “a certain committee is governed by the sunshine law when it consists of members of the public, who are presumably acting for the public, but hold that a committee may escape the sunshine law if it consists of individuals who owe their allegiance to, and receive their salaries from, the governing authority;” and Evergreen the Tree Treasurers of Charlotte County, Inc. v. Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners, 810 so. 2d 526, 531-532 (Fla. 2d DCa 2002) (staff committee members delegated decision-making authority from public officials no longer function as staff members but “stand in the shoes of such public officials” insofar as the sunshine law is concerned).

[12] Section 2.04 Investigation.

The Council, by majority vote, and showing good cause, may make investigation into the affairs of the Town and the conduct of any Town Department, Office or Agency and for this purpose may hold hearings, take testimony, and require the production of evidence. These and all other investigations shall comply with State and Federal Statutes.

[13] Broward County v. Conner, 660 so. 2d 288, 290 (Fla. 4th DCa 1995), review denied, 669 so. 2d 250 (Fla. 1996)

[14] AGO 75-41, 84-54 and 74-294

[15] AGO 75-41 and 74-84

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I AM WELL AWARE THAT THE PRIME CULPRIT OF THIS CITIZEN COMPLAINT HAS LEFT TOWN. I DESIRE THIS COMPLAINT BE HANDLED SO THAT NO OTHER, IN THE FUTURE, TOWN LEADER SO GRADUALLY USURPS THE SUNSHINE LAW AND THE FLORIDA CONSTIITUTION WITH NO COUNCIL AUTHORITY TO DO SO, NOT THAT IT WOULD MATTER.

 

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