Recently, the non-profit organization Citizens for Sunshine filed a lawsuit against the Manatee County school board for failure to follow the Sunshine laws when they hired a security company to provide security guards for our elementary schools. School Board attorney James Dye advised the board that to settle the lawsuit now would avoid more legal fees, according to the Bradenton Herald.
My question is why Mr. Dye did not advise the board before they pursued this process that they could possibly be violating the Sunshine laws? The school board attorney's job is to advise the board on all legal matters. Surely, Mr. Dye should have advised them that this was a possibility. Surely, the school board would not have ignored this advice.
The Sunshine laws were enacted for very good reasons. It may be inconvenient at times if an organization wishes to accomplish something that they know would be a contentious issue if the public was aware of it, which was the case regarding this issue, but that does not give them the right to violate the law.
Many in the community are upset that the money used for fighting lawsuits as well as the compensation should a litigant prevail in the suit is money that should be going to our schools for the improvement of the education of our children.
However, to be fair, it should be pointed out that there were numerous lawsuits filed against the school board during the McGonegal administration as well, when John Bowen was the school board attorney, and in many cases the litigant won the suit.
Who actually pays the costs of this litigation? We, the taxpayers of Manatee County. Who else suffers because of the cost of these lawsuits? Our schools and our students!