Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is leading a huge delegation to Israel beginning Saturday that includes a state Cabinet meeting inside the controversial new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
But is that meeting a violation of Florida’s open-meeting laws, known as “government in the Sunshine” laws?
WMNF asked Barbara Peterson. She’s president of the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for the public’s right to oversee the government through the application of Florida’s public meetings law.
“There are concerns, absolutely, and I am a bit worried about it, for all sorts of reasons. One, this meeting was announced back in April. Yesterday, an agenda of the meeting was finally provided, about a week before the actual meeting. We had been told initially not to worry, that the Cabinet would only be taking ceremonial action. But then, when you look at the agenda, they’re actually discussing some fairly substantial issues that Floridians care about.
“So, I was worried about the notice, the lack of notice, because if people do want to attend that meeting, they didn’t find out ‘til yesterday what the Cabinet is talking about. And now they’re going to be scrambling to try to find a flight reservation, a hotel reservation, assuming they can afford it.
“We still have not seen any substance of information on how the meeting is going to be webcast or video-cast. There’s a provision in Florida law that allows state-level agencies, like the Cabinet, to hold meetings by a video conferencing method. The Cabinet is allowed to do that. We just don’t know how they’re going to do it. We also don’t know exactly what time the meeting is going to commence. I saw 8:30, but the problem is, there’s a seven hour time difference, too.”
“…We have a constitutional right to participate in the [Florida Cabinet meeting in Israel.]”
SK: We’re hearing your concerns, but I just want to get to the bottom line. Do you think it’s a violation of the Florida Sunshine Laws?
“I think it could be a violation. Only the court can say there’s an actual violation of law. I think they’re pushing the line toward the violation.
“Whether that [agenda] notice that we got yesterday was reasonable under the law is a big question. There’s all sorts of case law and attorney generals’ opinions that say you’re supposed to — that an agency, a collegial body, which is what the Cabinet is — that the government collegial body should hold meetings in locations where it’s easy for people to attend. [Laughs] It’s not easy getting in Israel. And it may not be easy getting into the U.S. Embassy in Israel. So yes, there’s lots of Sunshine Law questions. I myself can’t say that there is a violation. Only the court can say that.”
Listen to the full interview here:
There was also a discussion of this topic on True Talk Friday. Listen here.
Below is a press release from the Governor’s office Friday afternoon:
Governor Ron DeSantis Outlines Bold Agenda for Upcoming Business Development Mission to Israel
Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis outlined a bold agenda for his upcoming Business Development Mission to Israel from May 25-31, 2019. The mission includes several historic firsts for a governor’s business development mission, providing Florida with a unique opportunity to strengthen the economic bonds between Florida and Israel.
“I promised to be the most pro-Israel Governor in America and our bold agenda for my upcoming business development mission to Israel includes many historic firsts, strengthening Florida’s ties with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” said Governor DeSantis. “Our delegation will secure a historic number of memorandums of understanding for a governor’s business development mission. These agreements will benefit Florida students, businesses and residents for decades to come from securing high-wage jobs, to the development of environmental technology to research and academic opportunities.”
Governor-led missions are part of a global trade development and business recruitment strategy that involves leaders from business, government and economic development organizations throughout Florida. The missions provide a unique opportunity to promote Florida’s business advantages, assist exporters in meeting clients, and identify and attract foreign direct investment. Governor-led missions target markets where a significant opportunity exists to expand Florida’s economy.
Governor DeSantis’ bold agenda for the upcoming Business Development Mission to Israel features the following participants, agreements and events:
- More than 90 delegates from Florida, representing every corner of the state
- Meeting with Israeli government officials to strengthen the ties and synergy between Florida and Israel
- The participation of more than 10 Florida institutions of higher education
- More than 15 strategic Partnerships and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)
- More than 10 business meetings to recruit new investments and bring high-wage jobs to Florida
- Keynoting a business address to hundreds of American and Israeli business leaders and executives
- Two policy-driven roundtables aimed to improve Florida’s environmental technology and public safety
- More than six business and economic networking receptions
- Ceremonial meeting of the Governor and members of the Florida Cabinet at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
- Cultural visits to strengthen the ties between Florida and Israeli residents
Additional information regarding the Governor’s Business Development Mission to Israel is available on the Enterprise Florida website. Pursuant to Florida Statute 119.071(2)d, certain information such as event locations and times will not be shared in advance for security purposes.
During his time in the U.S. Congress, Governor DeSantis led the successful charge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and advocated for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights. Since taking office, Governor DeSantis followed through on his commitment to enhance security at Jewish Day Schools and took a strong position opposing the BDS movement including commercial discrimination against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria by invoking Florida’s anti-BDS law against Airbnb.
Here’s a press release the Governor’s office sent out on May 22:
Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Leadership and Delegation for Historic Business Development Mission to Israel
Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the leadership and delegation for the Governor’s Business Development Mission to Israel, which takes place Saturday, May 25th through Friday, May 31st. Organized in conjunction with Enterprise Florida, Inc., the mission includes more than 90 delegation members and serves to strengthen the economic, academic and cultural bonds between Florida and Israel.
“This group of diverse Florida leaders will represent our state and nation proudly on this historic business development mission to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,”said Governor DeSantis. “Our delegation includes professionals and experts from a wide range of policy and business areas, representing every corner of our state. During this trip, we will affirm Florida as the most pro-Israel state in the nation and strengthen the bond between Florida and Israel for decades to come.”
Business Development Mission Leadership and Delegation
Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff is a Shareholder and member of the Government Practice Group at the Becker Law Firm. She began her career over 30 years ago, owning her first insurance business by the age of 21. In 2003, Senator Bogdanoff began her legal career as a litigator and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2004, serving 9 sessions in both the Florida House and Senate. She retired from the Senate in 2012 as the only Jewish Republican member of the legislature.
Simon and Jana Falic
Simon Falic is the CEO and Chairman of Duty Free Americas, Inc. and Jana Falic is the Co-President of the Women’s International Zionist Organization. The Falics reside in South Florida.
Mrs. Barbara Feingold has engaged in a lifelong pursuit of quality education for children, starting with her professional career as a speech and language pathologist and has served on the Florida State Board of Education. As a leader and philanthropist in the Jewish community, Mrs. Feingold and her husband dedicated The Dr. Jeffrey and Barbara Feingold Family Synagogue and Sefer Torah on the Mishmar Henegev Army Base in the Negev,Israel. She is currently on the Foundation Board of B’nai Torah Congregation where she and her husband recently established a STEM and Computer Coding Educational Center for the preschool, and sponsored the Feingold Family Inaugural Kids Concert Series.
The Honorable Dr. Jeffrey Feingold, a Florida-licensed periodontist, established MCNA Dental Plans in 1992, which has become the largest privately held dental managed care insurance company in America. Recently, the Hon. Dr. Feingold has been appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council Board of Trustees by President Donald J. Trump. He also serves on the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees and is the Florida Chair and a national board member for the Republican Jewish Coalition. The Hon. Dr. Feingold attended the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, as a representative of the U.S. State Department along with then-Congressman Ron DeSantis.
As owner until 1999 of New Jersey’s Farmland Dairies, Marc was responsible for numerous industry developments. By opening the New York milk market to competition, he saved New York’s milk consumers hundreds of millions annually. Since 1999, Marc has studied with and is on the advisory board of the Jerusalem based Aish HaTorah and is a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He was appointed by President Bush to the U.S. Holocaust Museum Council and is a recipient of the First Annual Crains New York Business All Stars, Who’s Who in Sales and Marketing, Who’s Who in the East 1989-90, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the 2016 King David Award by The Jewish Heritage Commission.
Carlyn and Lothar Mayer
Both born in South Africa, Carlyn and Lothar Mayer emigrated to the USA in 1977 and bought a company called Liberty Hardware Mfg. Corp. which they ran together until it was acquired by Masco, a stock exchange company in 1997. The Mayers are very involved in philanthropic endeavors and many projects. Carlyn has been on the American Israel Public Affairs National Board (AIPAC) while Lothar is on the AIEF (American Israel Foundation).
Florida Cabinet and Elected Officials
- Governor Ron DeSantis
- Attorney General Ashley Moody
- Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis
- Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (Jake Bergmann)
- Senator Wilton Simpson (Kathryn Simpson)
- Representative Chris Sprowls
- Senator Lauren Book
- Representative Randy Fine
- Representative Chip LaMarca
- Representative Joseph Geller
- Broward County Mayor Marc Bogen
- Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman
Florida Department and Agency Personnel
- Pamela Añez, Senior Executive Assistant, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Justin Caporale, Director of External Affairs, Executive Office of the Governor
- Frank DiBello, President and CEO, Space Florida
- Selma Fates, Director, International Strategic Initiatives, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Helen Ferre, Communications Director, Executive Office of the Governor
- Tony Gannon, Vice President, Research and Innovation, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Fred Glickman, Senior Consultant, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Richard Martin, General Counsel, Florida Office of the Attorney General
- Manny Mencia, Senior Vice President, International Trade and Development, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Robert Mons, Special Assistant to the Governor, Executive Office of the Governor
- Jared Moskowitz, Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management
- Christopher Munoz, Manager, International Trade and Development, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Judith Rebollar, Manager, Administration and Export Compliance, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Jared Rosenstein, Legislative Affairs Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management
- Derek Silver, Deputy Legislative Affairs Director, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
- Jamal Sowell, President and CEO, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
- Shane Strum, Chief of Staff, Governor Ron DeSantis
- Noah Valenstein, Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection
- Ryan West, Chief of Staff, CFO Jimmy Patronis
- Dana Young, President and CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
- Susan Amat, Executive Director, Global Entrepreneurship Network
- Alan Becker, Founding Shareholder, Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.
- Philip Brown, CEO, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
- Bob Diener, President, getaroom.com
- Rachel Feinman, Executive Director, Florida-Israel Business Accelerator
- Howard Goldstein, Senior Partner, Director of Business and Entrepreneurial Services, Appelrouth Farah and Co.
- Marcy Goldstein, President, Marcy E. Goldstein, CPA PA
- Margy Grant, CEO, Florida Realtors
- Robert Grossman, Chair, Israel Practice, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
- Fred Karlinsky, Shareholder, Co-Chair, Insurance Regulatory & Transactions Practice, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
- Eytan Laor, Chairman, Electoral Strategies
- Vicki Rabenou, President and CEO, StartUp Nation Ventures
- Marc Reicher, Senior Vice President, Rida Associates, LP.
- Aaron Ripin, COO, StartUp Nation Ventures
- Ashley Ross, Senior Advisor, Rubin, Turnbull & Associates
- Scott Ross, Consultant, Capital City Consulting
- Mark Ruben, Executive Director, Palm Beach, Israel Bonds
- Eric Sain, President, Florida Realtors
- Domingo Sanchez (Thomasa Sanchez), Chairman, Aviation Authority Board, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
- Danielle Scoggins, Vice President of Public Policy, Florida Realtors
- John Sholar, Florida Realtors
- Eric Silagy, President and CEO, Florida Power & Light Co.
- Sri Sridharan, Director, Cyber Florida
- Jason Unger, Attorney, Tallahassee Managing Director, GrayRobinson PA
- Melanie Weinstein, Interim Executive Director, Miami-Dade/Broward/West & Central Florida, Israel Bonds
- Jonathan Weiss, Director of Strategic Innovation, INSIGHTEC, Inc.
- Mark Wilson, President, Florida Chamber of Commerce
- Dr. Charles Adams, Dean, Honors College, University of South Florida
- Christina Bonarrigo Villamil, Project Manager, Full Sail University
- Heather Duncan, Vice President of Government Affairs, University of North Florida
- Dr. Brent Edington, Director, Office of Commercialization, Florida State University
- Dr. Daniel Flynn, Vice President of Research, Florida Atlantic University
- Dr. Melissa Friedman-Levine, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University
- Dr. Enrique Ginzburg, Professor of Surgery, University of Miami
- Morgan Holmes, Director of Corporate Partnerships, University of South Florida
- Dr. Max Hooper, Strategic Advisor – Business & Financial Modeling, University of Central Florida
- Mimi Jankovits, Executive Director, Teach Florida
- Dr. Jeff Jones, Vice Provost, UCF Connect and UCF Global, University of Central Florida
- Dr. Sandra Kauanui, Director, Institute for Entrepreneurship, Florida Gulf Coast University
- Dr. John Kelly, President, Florida Atlantic University
- Brad Levine, Trustee, Florida Atlantic University
- Dr. Mag Malek (Samia Abdel-Malek), Chair, Construction Management, College of Engineering, Computing and Construction, University of North Florida
- Dr. T. Dwayne McCay, President and CEO, Florida Institute of Technology
- Dr. David Metcalf, Director, Mixed Emerging Technologies Integration Lab, University of Central Florida
- Dr. Dan Moon, Associate Provost and Professor of Biology, University of North Florida
- Jamie Moon, Associate Lecturer, University of North Florida
- Dr. Larry Robinson (Sharon Robinson), President, Florida A&M University
- Dr. Lenore Rodicio, Executive Vice President and Provost, Miami Dade College
- Dr. Mark Rosenberg, President, Florida International University
- Dr. Jeffrey Senese, President, Saint Leo University
- Dr. James Sullivan, Executive Director, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University
- Rabbi Howard Needleman, Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El
- Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, Chabad of Tallahassee & FSU
- Dvir Weiss, Executive Director, Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El
- Matthew Bogdanoff, State Director, Republican Jewish Coalition
- Lior Haiat, Consul General, Consulate General of Israel in Miami
- Morton Klein, National President, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)
- Lisa McClaskey, Director of Political Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in Miami