2006 Florida Statutes
Access to local public officials; quasi-judicial proceedings on local government land use matters.
286.0115 Access to local public officials; quasi-judicial proceedings on local government land use matters.--
(1)(a) A county or municipality may adopt an ordinance or resolution removing the presumption of prejudice from ex parte communications with local public officials by establishing a process to disclose ex parte communications with such officials pursuant to this subsection or by adopting an alternative process for such disclosure. However, this subsection does not require a county or municipality to adopt any ordinance or resolution establishing a disclosure process.
(b) As used in this subsection, the term "local public official" means any elected or appointed public official holding a county or municipal office who recommends or takes quasi-judicial action as a member of a board or commission. The term does not include a member of the board or commission of any state agency or authority.
(c) Any person not otherwise prohibited by statute, charter provision, or ordinance may discuss with any local public official the merits of any matter on which action may be taken by any board or commission on which the local public official is a member. If adopted by county or municipal ordinance or resolution, adherence to the following procedures shall remove the presumption of prejudice arising from ex parte communications with local public officials.
1. The substance of any ex parte communication with a local public official which relates to quasi-judicial action pending before the official is not presumed prejudicial to the action if the subject of the communication and the identity of the person, group, or entity with whom the communication took place is disclosed and made a part of the record before final action on the matter.
2. A local public official may read a written communication from any person. However, a written communication that relates to quasi-judicial action pending before a local public official shall not be presumed prejudicial to the action, and such written communication shall be made a part of the record before final action on the matter.
3. Local public officials may conduct investigations and site visits and may receive expert opinions regarding quasi-judicial action pending before them. Such activities shall not be presumed prejudicial to the action if the existence of the investigation, site visit, or expert opinion is made a part of the record before final action on the matter.
4. Disclosure made pursuant to subparagraphs 1., 2., and 3. must be made before or during the public meeting at which a vote is taken on such matters, so that persons who have opinions contrary to those expressed in the ex parte communication are given a reasonable opportunity to refute or respond to the communication. This subsection does not subject local public officials to part III of chapter 112 for not complying with this paragraph.
(2)(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), a county or municipality may adopt an ordinance or resolution establishing the procedures and provisions of this subsection for quasi-judicial proceedings on local government land use matters. The ordinance or resolution shall provide procedures and provisions identical to this subsection. However, this subsection does not require a county or municipality to adopt such an ordinance or resolution.
(b) In a quasi-judicial proceeding on local government land use matters, a person who appears before the decisionmaking body who is not a party or party-intervenor shall be allowed to testify before the decisionmaking body, subject to control by the decisionmaking body, and may be requested to respond to questions from the decisionmaking body, but need not be sworn as a witness, is not required to be subject to cross-examination, and is not required to be qualified as an expert witness. The decisionmaking body shall assign weight and credibility to such testimony as it deems appropriate. A party or party-intervenor in a quasi-judicial proceeding on local government land use matters, upon request by another party or party-intervenor, shall be sworn as a witness, shall be subject to cross-examination by other parties or party-intervenors, and shall be required to be qualified as an expert witness, as appropriate.
(c) In a quasi-judicial proceeding on local government land use matters, a person may not be precluded from communicating directly with a member of the decisionmaking body by application of ex parte communication prohibitions. Disclosure of such communications by a member of the decisionmaking body is not required, and such nondisclosure shall not be presumed prejudicial to the decision of the decisionmaking body. All decisions of the decisionmaking body in a quasi-judicial proceeding on local government land use matters must be supported by substantial, competent evidence in the record pertinent to the proceeding, irrespective of such communications.
(3) This section does not restrict the authority of any board or commission to establish rules or procedures governing public hearings or contacts with local public officials.
History.--s. 1, ch. 95-352; s. 31, ch. 96-324.