(July 26, 2017)
Maitland elected officials have told the city’s non-profit library it needs to comply with the state’s broad open-records law.
Discussion sparked up last week at one of the city’s budget workshops after City Attorney Cliff Shepard issued a memo that concluded the library should be subject to the Sunshine Law.
“They serve a government function and operate largely on government funds,” City Council member Mike Thomas said this week. “[Shepard’s] research indicated they do fall under the Sunshine Law.”
David Stanley, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, indicated at the hearing that he was aware of the memo, but that the board would seek outside counsel for a second opinion.
“We’re a volunteer group,” he said then. “We try to be great stewards of the city’s money.”
Stanley couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Shepard’s memo included a 2011 opinion from Attorney General Pam Bondi who concluded that a South Florida nonprofit created to act on behalf of a municipality was subject to the open-records statute.
“This is too easy to fix,” Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald said. “Get it fixed.”
The library requested $750,000 from the city last week to pay for salaries, programs and for rising insurance premiums for its staff. That money would account for 95 percent of its operating budget, the proposal shows.
Florida law requires agencies to issue a notice of their public meetings and open them up to the public. Additionally, the vast majority of the organizations’ records would become publicly available.
The cost of archiving its records was a concern for library officials, they said last week.
City Manager Sharon Anselmo said she’s confident the library will comply and wants to ensure transparency as the city moves into discussions to renovate or expand the library.
Thomas said the additional scrutiny of the library’s budget could prove to be a benefit for them by allowing the city’s trained budget staff to seek savings and efficiencies.
“I’m not going to approve a budget that hasn’t been vetted by our staff,” Thomas said. “Every department has its budget vetted by the staff, and I don’t see why they should be any different.”
By Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel