City Council argues over access to advisory boards

02/12/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A discussion on whether Tampa City Council members can attend advisory board meetings grew contentious this morning at City Hall.

Those advisory boards, known as Community Advisory Councils (CACs), are located in various neighborhoods in town, in places like East Tampa and Drew Park.

Sal Territo, an attorney with the city of Tampa, has been working on various draft proposals on new rules in recent months.

The new draft received an immediate rebuke from Councilman John Dingfelder, who said could not understand why the city would want to discourage Council Members from attending such meetings.

Councilman Charlie Miranda said the idea for discouraging Council Members came from him, and that he had concerns of possible violations of the state’s Sunshine Laws.

Miranda also said that the mere presence of an elected official sitting at a Council Advisory Council meeting could create an intimidating effect on those running those meetings.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said she ran for office because she felt that citizens in Tampa felt disempowered, and she wanted to help them in their neighborhoods. She said she has served on the City Council for nearly two years and that the only questions regarding possible Sunshine Law violations during that time have com from the city’s legal staff.

Dingfelder then suggested the language in the draft proposal could be changed to say if two or more Council Members are in attendance, they should not speak on substantive issues, to avoid any violations of the Sunshine Law.

Councilman Joseph Catano had little to say about the issue, except to say he was tired of talking about it.

Councilman Thomas Scott said the only issue he had heard about was Linda Saul-Sena’s appearance at a Channelside CAC meeting created an intimidating presence.

She respectfully disagreed.

The Council Members then disagreed about how much of the proposal’s language should be changed. They voted to have the city’s legal department bring the proposal back at their CRA meeting in March.

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