Photo credit: Sylvar@Flickr.com
In a move that makes even some of the clowns over at County Center look respectable in comparison, the Florida State Fair Authority Chairman "Sandy" MacKinnon callously seems to think Florida's Sunshine Laws don't apply to him and even appears to offer votes on an upcoming land deal for the fairgrounds that just could include a new stadium for the Rays. As Bill Varian from the St. Petersburg Times reports, Chairman MacKinnon sought to keep the deal mum and even offered names of fellow Fair Authority board members that he thought would vote in favor of the proposal. David Mechanik, a well known land use attorney is working for the development group pushing the proposal and so is former Mayor Dick Greco. Take a look at the email MacKinnon sent the two.
On Oct. 27, MacKinnon sent Greco and Mechanik an e-mail.
"Dick and David," it read. "I always enjoy being with you guys and especially all the stories and deals of yesterday and yesteryear. Great fun. Attached are the members I think we can trust to stay mum and as well help to carry a vote when it may eventually be needed. Good luck and keep me in the loop on how it goes."
Why is that not kosher? Well, according to Florida's Sunshine Laws, members of the same body are not allowed to discuss issues that they will have an upcoming vote on unless it is at a publicly noticed meeting and open said public.
According to Varian's article:
State law prohibits two or more members of the same governing board from discussing issues in private that are likely to come before them in their official duties. It also prohibits people serving as conduits between board members to achieve the same ends.
Olin Mott was one of the board members listed by MacKinnon in that email to keep mum and help deliver the vote and evidently Greco was making the rounds to his buddy according to this excerpt from Varian's article:
Mott said he had coffee with Greco, a longtime friend, though he couldn't recall when. He said Greco briefly described the development concept and asked his thoughts.
Sure seems like that could be considered acting as a conduit.
MacKinnon is later quoted in that same article saying this:
"I know the media like the Sunshine Laws. And I understand the purpose of them," said MacKinnon, chief executive officer for Yale Lift Trucks of Florida & Georgia. "I could never run my business that way."
Does he know he is supposed to be running the Fairground's business that way? According to this website on the Sunshine Law, there are criminal penalties for knowingly violating it.
Shouldn't former Mayor Dick Greco also know about the Sunshine Law? (which MacKinnon should be operating under) or maybe that is how those 'deals of yesterday and yesteryear' MacKinnon referred to in his email were struck? According to my research Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine law was enacted in 1967 (the very same year Greco was elected Mayor the first time so even he should be aware of government in the sunshine especially since the longtime politician served as Mayor from 1967-1974 and again from 1995-2003 according to this bio on the city website.) Greco is thought to be toying with another run for Mayor. He can find out about Sunshine Law here. Kinda makes ya wonder what deals of yesteryear they were talking about doesn't it? I remembered that this recent article by Michael Van Sickler of the Times regarding sprawl and the foreclosure crisis references Greco and his annexing of New Tampa. I wonder if that was one of those deals?
Recall back in February the Chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission, Ken Hagan, opened Hillsborough's doors to the Rays (but he wasn't trying to steal them away from St. Pete) uh-huh. The Rays are under contract at the Trop with St. Pete until 2027 (that is 17 years away) in case anybody cares about honoring a contract.