The Continuing “Secret” Story of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce

One purpose of the government in the Sunshine Law was to prevent at nonpublic meetings the crystallization of secret decisions to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance. Rarely could there be any purpose to a nonpublic pre-meeting conference except to conduct some part of the decisional process behind closed doors. The statute should be construed so as to frustrate all evasive devices. This can be accomplished only by embracing the collective inquiry and discussion stages within the terms of the statute, as long as such inquiry and discussion is conducted by any committee or other authority appointed and established by a governmental agency, and relates to any matter on which foreseeable action will be taken. (1)

There is going to be a meeting of CSX officials, Lakeland business leaders, and the Lakeland City Manager. The public is not invited. As a matter of fact, the public is more than not invited. They’re forbidden to attend. Now who would do such a thing? The host of the meeting, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce. Who is going to be there?

Lakeland City Manager Doug Thomas; Anne Furr, the executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority; Steve Scruggs, the director of the Lakeland Economic Development Council; and Paul Noris, chairman of the board for the chamber of commerce, are expected to attend the meeting along with CSX spokesman Gary Sease and a representative from the company’s real estate department. – Lakeland Ledger

Now, I know this isn’t a city commission meeting, but the City manager is there and the business affects all city residents. For decades Floridians have conducted the business of communities in the open. What does Kathleen Munson, President of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce believe? I can’t tell you, but she can.

Kathleen Munson, president of the Chamber, said the media is not welcome. She said the reason for closing the gathering was so “questions are answered a little more candidly.” – Lakeland Ledger

“Initially, we need to learn as much as possible,” Munson said. “It’s not a question of sharing information with the public. For our purpose, (it’s) to get those answers – as much as possible – from CSX. Then, obviously, to look to see how we can mitigate the situation.” – Lakeland Ledger

Now, the other representatives all state they wouldn’t mind an open meeting. Each claims only the Chamber wants the secret meeting. But, they’re not refusing to attend. Are they?

(1) Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473, 477 (Fla. 1974)

2 thoughts on “The Continuing “Secret” Story of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce

  1. This is an excellent post and you are absolutely correct to keep an eye on this. The Chamber of Commerce in Winter Haven was extremely nefarious as they ‘did in’ Cypress Gardens. I have become interested in your blog and I see many of the same things in Lakeland that I see in Tampa and past Lakeland all the rampant growth. It’s a shame what is happening to florida and in some cases it is criminal. Certainly in this case it is unethical and perhaps criminal, as well.

  2. This is an excellent post and you are absolutely correct to keep an eye on this. The Chamber of Commerce in Winter Haven was extremely nefarious as they ‘did in’ Cypress Gardens. I have become interested in your blog and I see many of the same things in Lakeland that I see in Tampa and past Lakeland all the rampant growth. It’s a shame what is happening to florida and in some cases it is criminal. Certainly in this case it is unethical and perhaps criminal, as well.

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