Legal Report, August 2012

Palm Beach County League of Cities August 31, 2012--


Legal Report-August                                             General Counsel, Trela J. White

1. Posting of Budget on Municipality’s Official Website

Section 166.241, Florida Statutes, states that a municipality’s tentative budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website at least 2 days before its budget hearings.  The final adopted budget must be posted on the municipality’s official website within 30 days after adoption.  If the municipality does not operate an official website, then the municipality must, within a reasonable period of time, transmit the tentative budget and final budget to the county administrator who shall post the budgets on the county’s website.

2.  Section 286.0113, Florida Statutes (Oral Presentation Exemption from the Sunshine Law)

On June 2, 2011, Governor Scott signed HB 7223 into law.  This legislation amended the Sunshine Law at Section 286.0113, Florida Statutes, by providing that portions of meetings for persons appointed to evaluate bids or proposals and negotiate contracts (i.e. procurement selection committee meetings) may be closed to the public in certain circumstances.  Specifically, a municipality now has the choice to close to the public those portions of meetings where oral presentations are made by vendors, or where a vendor answers questions.  If a municipality decides to close these portions of the meetings, then neither the bidders, nor any member of the public will be permitted to sit in on meetings wherein a competitor is making a presentation or discussing its bid or proposal with the committee members.  Even if these portions of meetings are closed, they must still be recorded and are subject to disclosure at the time of an intended award decision or within 30 days of the bid or proposal opening, whichever is earlier.  The portions of the meetings that do not involve presentations, questions and answers, or negotiation strategy or negotiation sessions are still open to the public and competing bidders.

3.  Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics:  Recent Advisory opinions

a.  RQO 12-053:  The COE held that a municipal employee may attend a local training session in his or her official capacity that is sponsored by a vendor and may accept a $50.00 voucher for water testing services for use by his or her municipality upon course completion.  The COE found that the course fee of $50.00 was paid for by the municipality.  The COE also concluded that since the $50.00 voucher was to be accepted by the municipal employee on behalf of the municipality for a public purpose, there was no gift law violation.  The employee was not accepting the voucher for his or her personal benefit.

b.  RQO 12-055:  The COE held that a non-vendor local cruise company may hold a City Parks and Recreation appreciation cruise and barbecue for department employees and their families.  The COE concluded that so long as the cruise and barbecue was a general gesture of appreciation for public employees and their families, was given to a large class of public employees, and did not reward individual employees for specific performance of an official act or public duty, then there was no quid pro quo or other prohibited special consideration given to the public employees in exchange for the gifts.  The COE also concluded that if the value of the gift for an individual employee and his or her family members exceeded $100.00, then the gift must be reported as required by the Code.

4. Town of Gulf Stream et al vs. Palm Beach County, and Sharon R. Bock, as Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Intervenor

Case No. 502011CA017953XXXXMB.  Inspector General Funding Lawsuit.

Complaint for declaratory relief was filed on November 14, 2011 by fifteen (15) municipalities challenging the method of funding the Inspector General program.  The Village of Wellington withdrew on April 12, 2012.  The Ch. 164 dispute resolution process was followed by the parties and an amended ordinance was submitted to the County after a joint drafting effort was undertaken by representatives from both the County and the municipalities in an attempt to amicably settle the case.  The amendments proposed by means of the joint effort were unanimously rejected by the Board of County Commissioners of Palm Beach County.  A formal Mediation was held on May 18, 2012, which resulted in an impasse.  The Ch. 164 abatement was lifted to allow the matter to proceed to court.  On June 7, 2012 the Inspector General filed a Motion to Intervene.  This motion was opposed by the County, the municipalities and the Clerk of the Courts on several grounds.  A hearing on the matter is scheduled for September 14, 2012.  On August 2, 2012, the County filed an Amended Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaim.  On August 13, 2012, the municipalities filed a Motion to Dismiss the County’s Amended Counterclaim.  A hearing on the Motion to Dismiss has not been scheduled yet.

5.  City of Palm Bay vs. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.,

Case Number SC11-830Superiority of Code Enforcement Liens.

This case was reported on at the July 2012 League meeting and is on the July Legal Update, which is located on the League’s website.  No further action has been taken by the Florida Supreme Court at this time.

6.   City of Orlando and Lasercraft, Inc. vs. Michael Udowychenko, etc.

Case Number 5D11-720Red Light Cameras.

This case was reported on at the July 2012 League meeting and is on the July Legal Update, which is located on the League’s website.  No further action has been taken by the Florida Supreme Court at this time.