The recent meeting in Satellite Beach, Florida was marked by controversy and selectivity in attendee admission. Some community members, including advocates from Fight for Zero and environmental specialists, were denied entry and escorted out of the city hall lobby by police. The exclusion was attributed to the meeting being classified as “private.”
The city had canceled the meeting online shortly before it was scheduled to take place. This change was noticed by resident Dale Abrahams on the city’s website. When she visited the city hall for clarification, she witnessed restricted access being enforced.
No official minutes or recordings of the meeting were kept. Fight for Zero claimed that the city had tried to circumvent the Sunshine Law by rotating council members in and out of the meeting. This allegation was supposedly confirmed through emails obtained via public records requests. It was also suggested that attendance was selectively permitted based on individuals’ stances on the issues.
Photographs later emerged showing the three officials in a closed session, further adding to the controversy.
The Sunshine Law mandates that meetings on official agency business must be open to the public, with private discussions only allowed for matters that require action by the board or commission.
At the time of the September 17 meeting, the ongoing PFAS contamination issue remained unresolved, and future city dealings were anticipated.
Subsequent city council actions related to the PFAS contamination issue included allocating funds for groundwater testing, summarizing test results in a communication to residents, and establishing legislative priorities concerning water quality and PFAS legislation.
A lawsuit was filed by Jeff Dubitsky and Stel Bailey on behalf of affected citizens regarding the events of September 17. The case was dismissed and the dismissal upheld on appeal, though without detailed justification. The City’s claim for attorneys’ fees and costs was also rejected.
Despite these rulings, the City continued to pursue the recovery of attorney fees, a request that was once again denied. The council resolved to continue seeking fees, despite concerns raised by the City Attorney about the financial prudence of appealing the decisions.
Currently, Councilwoman Mindy Gibson is the only council member from the meeting still in office. She has been advocating for Florida legislators to shield Satellite Beach from liability regarding PFAS contamination. In contrast, the City of Titusville has entered into a PFAS settlement to mitigate taxpayer expenses related to testing and cleanup.
The City of Satellite Beach’s financial decisions and pursuit of legal fees have sparked discussions about fiscal responsibility, community health prioritization, and legal accountability.