Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton Tuesday evening set a special meeting of the City Council for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the wake of Milissa Holland’s resignation as mayor Tuesday evening.
The 9 a.m. meeting was noticed on the city’s web page. It was not noticed on the city’s Facebook page or other social media. (The city’s Facebook page as late as 9 p.m., long after the special meeting was set, featured a new posting about “Public Works Week.”) No press release went out to local media to announce it, even though the scheduling of the meeting falls below the customary 24-hour minimum ahead of a special meeting–a custom all other local governments have respected when setting such meetings.
Morton said exigent circumstances existed–Vice Mayor Eddie Branquinho’s impending travel abroad, in less than 24 hours, and Morton’s own absence from the city later this week to attend to a family medical matter.
Holland announced her resignation in an email to Morton and the council this evening at 6 p.m. The city charter requires the council to set special election within 30 days of the time when the mayor’s seat becomes vacant, absent a recall election. The date for the special election is not specified, so it can be set weeks or months hence. Morton, however, is favoring a swifter process to ensure that the council is again complete by the time it sets its tentative property tax rate at a mid-July meeting. He is recommending an election in 45 days, according to a council member.
A city spokesperson contacted this evening said she “doesn’t have anything to distribute” by means of notice about the meeting. (Shortly before 10 p.m., her office issued a meeting notice to media.)
The state’s sunshine law requires prominent public notices of public meetings. “There is no precise definition of or formula for due notice which is applicable to every situation,” a state Attorney General opinion states. “Due notice is a relative term, the meaning and sufficiency of which can be ascertained only in reference to the particular facts and circumstances upon which it bears. Notice which is adequate under normal conditions may be impractical or impossible in emergency situations. So the purpose behind the requirement of notice, the events about which notice is given, and the nature of the rights affected will determine what is required in each case.”
Precedents have guided the way, such as a First District Court of Appeal decision that found a Gainesville City Commission special meeting called within 90 minutes of its being held to be illegal, even though local news media had been contacted ahead of time: public notice is stressed: “The right ‘to be present and to heard’ has little meaning or value unless the public is informed that particular matters are pending and can choose whether or not to attend and participate in a meeting,” the Attorney General’s opinion states, citing a case involving the city of Miami Beach. “An understanding of the purpose of notice assists in the formulation of a functional definition of that term.”