Criminal Justice Commission seeks to dodge Sunshine Law

During a presentation at the Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Tuesday, the Criminal Justice Commission prompted a spirited debate when making recommendations on how best to help commission members avoid violating Sunshine Law provisions. Commissioners suggested a legislative remedy exempting the sheriff and the state attorney from open-government mandates so they could serve on advisory committees but still be free to discuss with each other relevant issues of day-to-day operations. Palm Beach County Commissioners Steve Abrams and Shelley Vana, who sit on the Criminal Justice Commission, noted that while they didn’t think it was a good idea to try to skirt the Sunshine Law, many elected officials are experiencing the same problems in adhering to the letter of the law. Abrams made the motion to amend the recommendation to include all other constitutional officers, the County Commission and any other body that would be affected by these restrictions in the course of serving on advisory committees.

The Criminal Justice Commission also presented an evaluation of the Youth Violence Prevention Program, now it its fourth year. In Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach, whose city governments have maintained financial support of the programs, the number of youths participating has increased while arrests involving juveniles enrolled in YVPP programs have decreased.

County Commissioner Paulette Burdick, the newest addition to the county commission, cried foul when two items were added to the agenda just before the meeting with no time to review the backup. County Commissioner Burt Aaronson stated that “nothing is ever added on unless it is an emergency.” While one item pertained to a federal grant deadline, the second involved moving money around in the parks budget. After brief discussion, both items passed unanimously.

Palm Beach County took steps to become the first in the state to propose new rules for child care facilities, specifically for transport vans. Mirroring a bill sponsored in the 2011 session by state Sen. Maria Sachs and state Rep. Lori Berman, the new measure would require all child care centers in Palm Beach County to install an alarm system in their transport vans to detect whether a child had been accidentally left behind. The alarm would have to be turned off at the back of the van, requiring the driver to inspect the seats for forgotten children. Sachs commended the County Commission, calling it the “first County Commission in the state to require this as a rule.” Berman also noted that the insurance rates on these vehicles would be eligible for a discount if the alarms were installed.

The new rules will be considered during a public hearing scheduled in August.


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