At their meeting on June 16, the Leon County Commissioners voted to change their meeting schedule to one regular meeting per month. Previously, they scheduled regular meetings the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.
The Commissioners voted to schedule one regular meeting the second Tuesday of the month at 3:00 p.m., allocated workshops to the second and/or fourth Tuesday of the month at 1:00 p.m., and reserved public hearings for the fourth Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
The motion, which was made by Commissioner Bill Proctor, passed five to two. Commissioners Kristin Dozier and Rick Minor dissented.
Dozier and Minor both noted that the Commission meetings are the only time that the Commissioners can legally communicate and make decisions.
Minor commented, “I’m inclined to keep things the same as they are, meeting twice a month, and here’s the reason why. Certainly, meeting once a month would be easier for us. It would be easier for County staff. I think it would be harder for citizens to reach out to us and provide input to us on things that are important to them.”
Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley, who supported the motion, said most of the Commission’s important discussion take place during public hearings, not regular meetings. She also noted that new technology allows the Commissioners to receive input from citizens.
Commissioner Bryan Desloge also supported the motion and said, “My office is open all the time. I talk to people all the time. I think coming to a meeting and addressing us there really is not the primary way people get in touch with us.”
According to the meeting agenda, only five of Florida’s 67 counties hold one meeting per month. The majority, 54, hold two meetings per month. The staff analysis shows that all counties similar in size to Leon County, including Alachua County and St. Johns County, hold at least two meetings per month.
Additionally, the Tallahassee City Commission and the Leon County School Board both meet twice per month.
Former Tallahassee City Commissioner Debbie Lightsey, who served for over 20 years, blasted the schedule change on Facebook.
“Having fewer meetings likely means less elected official involvement and certainly means less opportunity for citizen awareness or input,” Lightsey wrote. “One meeting a month will necessitate one agenda book with thousands of pages…a deterrent to well-informed officials and citizens. In my view, elected officials in both the City and County government have already ceded way too much authority to Management and Staff. This will further exacerbate this problem.”
“So many of us are not ok with what is happening now—and certainly don’t approve having fewer opportunities to speak and hear other citizens speak,” she said.