City Council exits mid-meeting to avoid potential open meetings law violation

Sunshine exit

Crestview City Council members Shannon Hayes, Robyn Helt and Thomas Gordon leave the council chamber during Monday night's council meeting to avoid a potential Sunshine Law violation.

BRIAN HUGHES / News Bulletin
Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM.

CRESTVIEW — City Council members excused themselves during Monday evening's meeting, leaving the council chamber during a resident's presentation, to avoid a potential Sunshine Law violation.

Dr. Jean Mitchell addressed the council about the city's proposed animal control ordinance when she described conversations she had with individual council members.

City attorney Jerry Miller cautioned Mitchell that disclosing council members' individual remarks made when other council members weren't present was a violation of Sunshine Laws.

"If you are lobbying council members, never communicate to them or in public make reports on their positions," Miller said. "It exposes them to dire consequences."

When Mitchell resumed the discussion, Miller said, "Do not get back into the hole I just dug you out of."

To allow Mitchell to enter her comments into the public record without exposing city leaders to a potential Sunshine violation, Council President Robyn Helt excused board members to wait in the hallway.

"I don't feel I was treated professionally by the attorney," Mitchell said. "I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. To be reprimanded in front of everyone I thought was appalling."

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