| April 2017
A district court affirmed a court ruling stating Sarasota City Commissioner Susan Chapman did not violate the Sunshine Law in 2013 when she attended a private meeting where a fellow city commissioner was present. Chapman says the decision validates that she always adhered to the law and shows a case brought by Citizens for Sunshine was politically motivated and frivolous.
Citizens for Sunshine appealed the ruling, saying the facts of the case showed Chapman had violated the law, which forbids commissioners on the same government board to communicate about city business outside of public channels. Michael Barfield, a legal aide working on the case for Citizens, says plaintiffs will ask for a written opinion explaining the decision. From there, Citizens may still appeal the decision, potentially asking for a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.
Chapman and City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell in 2013 were invited to a meeting at Tsunami where merchants discussed their concerns about handling the homeless issue. Afterward, Citizens sued the city and each commissioner. The city and Atwell settled out of court. Chapman maintained she did not deliberate on the issue and thus had not violated the law. A judge in 2016 criticized the decision to attend the meeting but ruled Chapman was not guilty of violating the Sunshine Law.