As long as eight years ago, Tampa International Airport executive director Louis Miller was made aware by his lawyers that meetings where staffers ranked bid proposals were subject to the state's open government law.
A review in 2002 by the airport's legal department determined that when a public agency's board assigned staff to study proposals and come back with recommendations, the meeting must be advertised and open the public. The document and a memo routing it to Miller were released late Wednesday in response to a public records request by the St. Petersburg Times.
If such meetings don't comply with the Sunshine Law, any contracts subsequently awarded by the board are void, wrote David Scott Knight, an attorney for the authority, in a January memo.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority last week had staffers rank proposals for two projects a second time because the agency failed to publish notification of the original meetings held in December.
Authority officials don't know yet if more meetings violated the law, said spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan. Deputy director John Wheat and general counsel Gigi Rechel are expected to make a statement about the issue at the authority's board meeting this morning.
Board members also are scheduled to vote on accepting last week's resignation of Miller and appointing Wheat as interim executive director.
Miller, 61, said he wanted to leave after nearly 14 years to pursue other opportunities. He said his decision wasn't influenced by public criticism from board members in recent months.
Legal staff surveyed 14 Florida government agencies — including five airport authorities, the city of Tampa and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — on their policies about selection committee meetings. Every one said they were subject to the Sunshine Law.
Steve Huettel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3384.