A phone call made to Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser almost landed Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson in hot water earlier this month.
Robinson, who is the chairman for the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization, was cleared of allegations last Friday that he violated the state’s Sunshine Law after he called Dannheisser outside of a TPO meeting to advise him of an issue that involved the new Pensacola Bay Bridge project.
Dannheisser is also a member of the TPO.
An individual alleged Robinson violated the state’s Sunshine Law when he made the phone call to Dannheisser, but the State Attorney’s Office determined that that was not the case.
State Attorney Bill Eddins announced last Friday that his office reviewed the complaint and “determined that there is insufficient evidence to establish that any violation has occurred.”
According to the state attorney’s office, back at the June 8 TPO meeting, Dannheisser made a public records request to representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation for a number of documents related to the competitive bid process of the bay bridge replacement.
On June 10, representatives with FDOT advised Executive Director of the West Florida Regional Planning Council Austin Mount, that Dannheisser’s request “might cause a delay to the bridge process” and “possibly jeopardize funding”, according to the state attorney’s office.
After receiving the information, Mount believed it was necessary to get the information to Robinson as TPO Chair. Robinson believed that the public records request needed to be withdrawn by close of business on June 10, and called Dannheisser to alert him of the situation.
“Prior to making the call, Commissioner Robinson evaluated the matter and determined that it did not constitute a violation of the Sunshine Law,” stated Chief Assistant State Attorney Gregory Marcille.
The telephone call, which lasted less than two minutes, only involved the public records request and the possible effect of the bridge project, according to both Robinson and Dannheisser. Shortly after the phone call, Dannheisser sent an email to FDOT withdrawing his public records request.
Since Dannheisser withdrew the request prior to the matter being discussed, the state attorney’s office determined that the discussion was not in violation of the Sunshine Law.
The Sunshine Law applies to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action. Since Dannheisser withdrew the public records request, the matter was removed from discussion for the upcoming TPO meeting. The state attorney’s office also believed that the public records request would not have had any action taken on it at the upcoming TPO meeting.
“While this conversation may have been ill-advised, it does not constitute a violation of the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. For this reason, we will take no further action regarding this matter,” stated Marcille.