West Florida Library Board Meets In Century In Apparent Sunshine Law Violation

April 27, 2021

The West Florida Public Libraries (WFPL) Board of Governance held a meeting in Century Monday afternoon in apparent violation of Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

The meeting was held at the Century Branch Library beginning after 4 p.m. Two legal notices for the meeting, published by Escambia County April 17 and April 24 in the Pensacola News Journal, stated the meeting would be held at 4 p.m. on April 26 at 239 North Spring Street — the address of the Main Library downtown. The meeting was not in Escambia County’s website list of public meetings for April, and it was not posted on the West Florida Libraries website, which stated “There are no upcoming events at this time”. An Escambia County news release “BCC Weekly Meeting Schedule April 26 — April 30, 2021″ listed the meeting as being downtown.

County Attorney said Monday night that she will investigate.

Florida’s Sunshine Law requires that adequate public notice be given for public meetings, including time and the correct location.

NorthEscambia.com learned Monday afternoon that the meeting was actually underway in Century.

Shortly after our arrival at the meeting about 5:15 p.m., WFPL Director Todd Humble paused board discussion to recognize that we had arrived, and NorthEscambia.com raised concerns that the meeting was in violation of the Sunshine Law. Board member Robin Reshard told Humble that our comments could wait.

The board continued discussion about policies and procedures for about 10 more minutes before Humble returned focus to our concerns. He said the correct information was sent to the county, and the county’s Community and Media Relations (CMR) Department had advertised the wrong location.

“We were not trying to hide anything here,” Humble said. “I know the county website thing, that’s 100% on the county because they were given the agenda stuff specifically.”

“I am going to call the person that’s over the CMR office, because this mistake is not acceptable,” he said. He then tried to place calls to someone at CMR and the county attorney’s office, but no one answered.

The board then launched discussion if the meeting would in fact violate the Sunshine Law, as Humble had advised them multiple times that it would due to the improper location in the legal advertisement. In the meantime, an unsuccessful attempt was made to find a copy the PNJ advertisement, and discussion continued among board members about rescheduling the meeting and the location of future meetings.

After the board adjourned about 5:45 p.m., board members remained for snacks that had been provided — doughnuts, pretzel chips, guacamole, sodas and other items. Much of the chatter was about roses and other non-library business, but at least two members had a nearly inaudible discussion concerning the board until interrupted by Humble. By about 6 p.m. board members had all cleared the library.

Two members — Bryant and Reshard — were seen still talking in the parking lot after 6:30.

It should be noted that the Sunshine Law does not prevent board members from speaking to each other in ordinary conversation outside a meeting.

“Members of a public board or commission are not prohibited under the Sunshine Law from meeting together socially, provided that matters which may come before the board or commission are not discussed at such gatherings,” the 2021 Florida Government in the Sunshine Manual states.

However, any discussion that might take place between board members during the refreshments, or in the parking lot, would be a violation of Florida law if it concerned library business.

“Accordingly, the law is applicable to any gathering, whether formal or casual, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action will be taken by the public board or commission,” the Sunshine Manual states.

Other than NorthEscambia.com, no one from the public attended the library board meeting Monday in Century.

Humble said the library board’s next meeting in May would be scheduled for Century and would be properly advertised.

Editor’s note: The West Florida Library System is a function of Escambia County, as is the Century Branch Library. The Town of Century has no control of the Century Branch Library and no member on the five-member library board. Three library board members are appointed by the Escambia County Commission. One is appointed by the Pensacola City Council, and one is appointed by the mayor of Pensacola.

Pictured top: West Florida Public Libraries Director Todd Humble (far left), and Board of Governance members (L-R) Robin Reshard, Grace Buenatista, and Bradley Vinson during a meeting Monday afternoon at the Century Branch Library. Pictured inset: Humble attempts to call someone from Escambia County Community and Media Relations. Board member Dr. Laura Bryant is seen in the background. Pictured below: Reshard and Bryant remained the Century Branch Library parking lot at 6:33 p.m. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


10 Responses to “West Florida Library Board Meets In Century In Apparent Sunshine Law Violation”

  1. Trisha on May 1st, 2021 12:00 pm

    Chris, why are you slamming the people of Century? They had absolutely nothing to do with this misinformation blunder. So now you can go ahead and put the blame on the county where it belongs!

  2. David on April 28th, 2021 11:33 am

    We will never have a real Sunshine Law until we allow single party audio recording of private meetings.

  3. David Huie Green on April 28th, 2021 10:22 am

    “Why would the Century public want to attend.”

    Most wouldn’t.
    I wouldn’t.
    That doesn’t mean the law should be violated.

    David for better laws if needed

  4. David on April 27th, 2021 3:19 pm

    No big deal, Century does things like this and the public loves them.
    Pensacola can now wear that atta boy badge of honor.
    Love the deception….

  5. chris on April 27th, 2021 7:55 am

    The ineptitude of Century is apparently rubbing off on those around them.

  6. judy on April 27th, 2021 7:31 am

    Thank you, North Escambia, for keeping them straight. What good id a law that isn’t followed or enforced? :)

  7. M in Bratt on April 27th, 2021 6:33 am

    After all, Sunshine Law violations are customary in TOC. What do they say? When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

  8. SueB on April 27th, 2021 6:03 am

    Please, women talk about anything. I’m sure these women had enough fill of the Sunshine Law about the Library. Why would the Century public want to attend. Read the Editor’s Note.

  9. sam on April 27th, 2021 5:24 am

    sounds as if it was just a mistake. that being said someone in charge is supposed to know the correct procedure. better planning next time.

  10. bob c on April 27th, 2021 5:19 am

    Good Grief, you”d think that of ALL public groups the West Florida Public Libraries (WFPL) Board of Governance would have READ the Florida Laws and READ their own advertisement in the PNJ.
    From their responses after being informed of the possible Violation they appear to be uncaring about the legal requirements and Sunshine Laws.