Are All the Covert Operations at the P.O. Chamber of Commerce in Violation of State Law?

covertFW: Is the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce subject to open government laws ?

 


 

Good afternoon Robin and Margaret,

Based on the totality of the arrangement the City has with the Port Orange Chamber including the agreements each has with the other it is clear the Chamber is  acting  on behalf of the City in providing benefits to the citizens of Port Orange in a number of areas.

Those services that Chamber is providing on behalf of the City,   enumerated in not less than 28 instances in an agreement dated  October 5th 2011,   make clear that the Chamber is an agent of the City and is thus subject to Florida’s  open government laws regarding records and meetings.

Accordingly I am requesting copies of all minutes prepared by the Chamber for the past 24 months,  AND   clear instruction to your  ‘agent the Chamber’   that hence forth all meetings of the Chamber including its Board of Directors and the Executive BOD be in compliance with Florida’s  public meeting requirements.

 

Thank you

Ted Noftall


 

From: Barbara Petersen [mailto:Sunshine@floridafaf.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 2:10 PM
To: Ted Noftall
Subject: Re: Is the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce subject to open government laws ?

 

The City can ask for an attorney general opinion, Ted, or you can ask that your local state attorney investigate the issue.  That’s what happened in P’cola.


 

From: Ted Noftall [mailto:Ted@TedNoftall.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 12:58 PM
To: Barbara Petersen
Subject: FW: Is the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce subject to open government laws ?

 

Thank you Barbara,  for suggesting that  our focus likely needs to be on  the fundamental trigger of whether the Port Orange Chamber is  “ acting on behalf “   of the City of Port Orange.

I believe the totality of the City’s relationship with the Chamber and   the agreements  provided   indicate clearly  that the Chamber is acting  on behalf of the City in providing benefits to the citizens of Port Orange in a number of areas including:  public information,  economic development,  leadership training,  city recruitment, occupational licensing,   business complaints,  tourism,  and relocation.

I  will  encourage the City Clerk and the City Attorney to insist on compliance by their ‘ agent ‘  with the relevant  open government laws regarding records and meetings,  and feel confident that based on the facts in this instance such encouragement  is all that will be required.

As a  last resort I will request that our States Attorney involve himself in this matter.

Again thank you for your guidance.

 

Ted Noftall

 


 

From: Barbara Petersen [mailto:Sunshine@floridafaf.org]
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 4:19 PM
To: Ted Noftall
Subject: Re: Is the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce subject to some measure of Sunshine ?

As a general rule, Ted, chambers of commerce are not subject to the sunshine law or public records law.  But a chamber could be subject to our open government laws if it enters into an agreement by which it is “acting on behalf of” a government agency.  For example, the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce entered into an agreement with the city by which the Chamber became heavily involved in the economic development and tourism efforts of the city, and the state attorney determined that the PCC was an “agency” for the purposes those efforts of the open government laws and all records and meetings of the Chamber board relating to were subject to the PRL and SL.  All this goes to say, it’s a fact-specific determination.

Also, a couple of years ago, the legislature passed a new law, s. 119.0701, pasted below, that says every contract for services between a government agency and a vendor must contain a specific provision requiring that the vendor comply with the requirements of the PRL.  It also says that the contracting agency is responsible for ensuring compliance by the vendor with the requirements of the law.  Here’s a link:  http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2014/119.0701

There’s a fairly comprehensive discussion of this issue in the 2014 Sunshine Manual, pp. 7 – 9 and 58 – 62.

Let me know if you need more information.

 

B.

Barbara A. Petersen, President
First Amendment Foundation
336 East College Avenue, Suite 101
Tallahassee, FL 32301
800.337.3518

The Foundation is a member-supported non-profit organization and we need your support.  To become a member or make a donation tax-deductible donation, go to www.floridafaf.org.

119.0701 Contracts; public records.

(1) For purposes of this section, the term:

(a) “Contractor” means an individual, partnership, corporation, or business entity that enters into a contract for services with a public agency and is acting on behalf of the public agency as provided under s. 119.011(2).

(b) “Public agency” means a state, county, district, authority, or municipal officer, or department, division, board, bureau, commission, or other separate unit of government created or established by law.

(2) In addition to other contract requirements provided by law, each public agency contract for services must include a provision that requires the contractor to comply with public records laws, specifically to:

(a) Keep and maintain public records that ordinarily and necessarily would be required by the public agency in order to perform the service.

(b) Provide the public with access to public records on the same terms and conditions that the public agency would provide the records and at a cost that does not exceed the cost provided in this chapter or as otherwise provided by law.

(c) Ensure that public records that are exempt or confidential and exempt from public records disclosure requirements are not disclosed except as authorized by law.

(d) Meet all requirements for retaining public records and transfer, at no cost, to the public agency all public records in possession of the contractor upon termination of the contract and destroy any duplicate public records that are exempt or confidential and exempt from public records disclosure requirements. All records stored electronically must be provided to the public agency in a format that is compatible with the information technology systems of the public agency.

(3) If a contractor does not comply with a public records request, the public agency shall enforce the contract provisions in accordance with the contract.

History.—s. 1, ch. 2013-154.

 


 

From: Ted Noftall [mailto:Ted@TedNoftall.com]
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014 12:06 PM
To: ‘Barbara Petersen’
Subject: Is the Port Orange Chamber of Commerce subject to some measure of Sunshine ?

 

Good morning Barbara,

The city of Port Orange has had a long standing relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce a  Florida Non Profit Corporation   (  through below market leases,  service agreements and payments ,  common board participation etc, )    that has largely flown beneath the radar and by and large that has been fine.

This past year however the Chamber has involved itself in local politics to a far greater extent than it has in the past and that is not fine.

When I attempted to attend the Board of Directors meeting to more greatly understand their political activities as a ordinary dues paying Chamber member I was denied access.  When I requested copies of the minutes of those meetings  I was refused  with the explanation that the Chamber is not subject to public meetings and public records statutes.

I understand that blanket exemption from Sun Shine requirements that typically apply to government becomes less than air tight  depending on the level of involvement an entity  has with government,

AND THIS IS  where I am hoping you can assist by explaining when the relationship between government and a corporation becomes such that Sunshine requirements begin to attach to that corporation.

Thank you

Ted Noftall

(386) 566-1424


 

—–Original Message—–
From: Fenwick, Robin [mailto:rfenwick@port-orange.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:16 AM
To: Ted Noftall
Cc: Riehm, Tracey
Subject: RE: FOI City involvement with PO /SD Chamber of Commerce

 

Ted: See my responses in red below.

Tracey: There are a few items below that I will need input from finance on. Let me know when you have time

Thanks.

Robin

ROBIN L. FENWICK, CMC
CITY CLERK

 


rom: Ted Noftall [mailto:Ted@TedNoftall.com]

Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 12:17 PM

To: Fenwick, Robin

Subject: FOI City involvement with PO /SD Chamber of Commerce

Robin,

I would like to understand if the City’s financial involvement with the PO /SD Chamber of Commerce is such that some or all the Chambers records are subject to the  ” public records” laws of Florida.

Accordingly I would like to request  the  following for FY 2013  and  for  YTD   FY 2014

*)  A list of any City employees who have received any training through the auspices of the Chamber, And the cost of that training. I will see what information finance might have regarding this request. I don’t believe we have a list of city employees who have received training but there may be a report finance can pull showing what has been paid to the Chamber. We also have training records but those would have to be researched to find out who has attended their trainings. However, it will not be in one main list. There would definitely be a charge for that research, but maybe finance can provide a report that fits your request…

*)   A list of any  City employees who have  served  on or liaised with  any Chamber  boards,   And the names of those  boards.    There is no such list as you request. I do know that Don Burnette was appointed by Council in 2014. See minutes located at https://www.port-orange.org/documents/meetings/regular/2014-01-07/agenda.htm

*)   A copy of any minutes those employees received or should have received  by virtue of their participation on those Chamber boards. I have asked Wayne Clark if he or his staff are on any committees with the Chamber. He said he, Donna, and/or Shannon have attended meetings for the Chamber’s Economic and Government Affairs Team off and on over the years. They were not “appointed” to that team and there are no minutes for those meetings.

*)  A list of any Chamber employees or executives who have served on or liaised with any City boards. And the names of those City boards. There is no list maintained by the City to fill this request.

*)  A copy of all  receipt  and check vouchers  or a listing there of indicating all monies received from or paid to the Chamber. I will see what Finance can provide for you. This will answer your first bullet point as well.

*)  A copy of any lease(s)  the City has with the Chamber. See attached.

*)  A copy of any agreement(s) the City has with the Chamber. See attached.

*)  A narrative summary of any informal understandings the City has with the Chamber or discounts that are extended from the City to the Chamber and vice versa.    There is no record to provide to fill this request.

Thank you



 

 

3 Opinions on “Are All the Covert Operations at the P.O. Chamber of Commerce in Violation of State Law?

  1. Evil or not I do not believe it right that an organization receiving huge taxpayer subsidies in the form of a below market lease on prime riverfront property plus $ 19,000 in cash be allowed to operate in total secrecy particularly in light of the partisan political activities of its executive in the run-up to this election.
    If the Chamber wishes to operate in a partisan political manner its taxpayer subsidies need to be eliminated.

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