BRADENTON -- A Florida nonprofit is suing the Manatee County School Board claiming a meeting of the Manatee County School District Evaluation Committee violated the Sunshine Law by failing to provide advance public notice.
Citizens for Sunshine filed the lawsuit Thursday afternoon. Andrea Flynn Mogensen, a Sarasota attorney who handles public records and Sunshine Law violations, is representing the group.
The suit is asking to void actions taken by the school board, including awarding a three-year, $1 million per annum contract to Sarasota Security Patrol to provide security guards in district elementary schools because the committee that made the recommendation violated the Sunshine Law by not advertising or meeting in public.
"If you do something out
side of Sunshine, you have to go back and do it again," said Michael Barfield, a legal consultant in Mogensen's office.
If the courts rule in favor of Citizens for Sunshine, the district will have to begin the process again.
Barfield said the next step is for Mogensen to file an injunction to stop any further payments on the contract.
It's not the first time Barfield has been involved in a Sunshine lawsuit against the district.
The school board Sept. 23 approved paying Barfield a $21,000 settlement in a separate public records lawsuit. In March 2013, Barfield made a written public records request via email for an unredacted version of a document titled: "School Board of Manatee County, List of Current/Pending Closed Cases."
Barfield asked the school board to explain in writing any exemption it claimed for redactions to the document. On March 28, 2013, the school board provided Barfield the requested record with numerous redactions, according to an appeals court opinion filed April 11.
A court initially ruled for the district in Barfield's suit, but the ruling was overturned on appeal.
District spokesman Steve Valley said Thursday he had not yet seen the latest lawsuit and had no comment on the litigation.
Valley said Monday evaluations are normally open, but if interviews were conducted or presentations made by the request for proposal respondents, then they are closed per state statute. The meeting was recorded, Valley said.
Valley said he had no knowledge of any member of the public who asked to attend the unadvertised evaluation meeting and said if anyone had asked, they would have been permitted.
"The plaintiff and the public have suffered irreparable injury because of the failure to provide advance notice to the public of the activities of the Evaluation Committee," the lawsuit claims.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.