When you or other community leaders must decide on zoning laws, land use issues or similar matters that may impact the public, you may have to host a public meeting. The Florida Constitution and the Florida Sunshine Law set guidelines about hosting these meetings, and the law also dictates that you must give the public proper notice before one of them takes place.

What does proper notice entail, and what type of gathering constitutes a public meeting?

Defining public meetings

According to the Digital Media Law Project, the Florida Sunshine Law defines a meeting as any gathering where two or more members of a public body come together to discuss public policies or official business.

If two or more members of a government entity plan to gather information or facts about a particular topic or proposed project, this, too, typically constitutes a meeting. This holds true regardless of whether the gathering is formal or casual in nature. In some cases, communications that take place over the phone or online may also fall under the “meeting” umbrella.

Giving proper notice

While the Florida Sunshine Law dictates that you must give the public reasonable notice ahead of your meeting, it is less specific about exactly what “reasonable” means. When planning a meeting, it may serve you well to give notice about it as early as possible to avoid potential trouble. However, if you are able to argue that the notice you gave was reasonable given your circumstances, you should likely be in the clear.

You may choose to give notice by issuing a press release or posting to a website. For significant issues that impact many, you may need to publicize your meeting in a local newspaper.