Plan commissioners could face Sunshine Law violations By TOM McLAUGHLIN 315-4435 | @TomMnwfdn email@example.com Posted Oct. 19, 2015 at 4:51 PM Updated at 5:07 PM An effort to remove Suzanne Harris from the Walton County Planning Commission Board appears to have backfired. While Harris remains on the board, fellow member Tom Terrell is being accused by some of violating the Sunshine Law by polling fellow board members through an intermediary. Bob Hudson, who attended the Oct. 8 Planning Commission meeting, said he will “absolutely” present evidence of the suspected violation to the State Attorney’s Office Tuesday. Hudson and others claim Terrell had former planning board member Randy Gardner call at least three planning commissioners to ask whether they would vote to oust Harris. Terrell denied the charge. “I don’t want to see anyone off the Planning Commission,” he said. The three commissioners allegedly polled — David Kramer, Lee Perry and Tom Patton — all confirmed Monday having received phone calls from Gardner prior to the Oct. 8 meeting. They acknowledged the same thing when asked by Harris during the meeting in question. An obscure board policy calls for removing a board member if that member misses any two of three consecutive meetings without prior approval of the chairman. Harris missed meetings in April and May. Harris said she had heard prior to the meeting that a move was afoot to use the attendance policy to remove her from the Planning Commission board. Several in attendance on the night of the meeting, including Hudson, were also apparently aware of political maneuvering by board members. Afterward, they were quick to call for Terrell’s head. “Mr. Terrell used an intermediary recently to poll at least three other members of the Planning Commission ... in my opinion flagrantly violating the Sunshine Law,” Don Riley, vice president of the Walton County Tax-payer’s Association, said in an email to the Walton County Commission. Harris said if what she’s been told occurred between Gardner and Terrell actually occurred, she’s certain the Sunshine Law was violated. “It sure looks funny,” she said. County Commission Chairman Bill Imfeld, who reappointed Terrell to the Planning Commission, said it is not his place as a commissioner to take action in the event of a Sunshine Law violation. “If it’s Sunshine, it needs to go to the Ethics Commission,” Imfeld said. Though Terrell denies having used Gardner to poll fellow commissioners – Gardner wasn’t available for comment on this article – Riley and others say the evidence he did so is solid. If that is the case, then it is likely the Sunshine Law was indeed violated, according to Barbara Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundatio “The Sunshine Law will apply to meetings between a member of the commission and a non-commission member, including a private citizen, when that person is being used as a liaison between members of the commission to relay in-formation from commissioner to commissioner,” Petersen said. Teddy Stewart, the chairman of the Planning Commission, said he did not believe a Sunshine Law violation had been committed Oct. 8. He added though that the ruckus created after he, not Terrell, brought up the topic of Harris’s attendance and called for her removal had angered him. “That anyone would call and poll people surprised me. I was quite upset by it,” he said. Ultimately, the board voted to clarify its policies regarding board member absences and act on those policies as needed in the future.