Citizens question if Satellite Beach violated Florida's open meeting laws

Erin Brockovich associate spoke with city in closed meeting about water concerns

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – Residents are seeking answers about the legality of a closed meeting this week in Satellite Beach.

A group of cancer survivors and concerned citizens were not allowed to attend Monday's gathering at City Hall about possibly contaminated water and beachside cancer cases. The meeting was called for by environmental activist Erin Brockovich's coworker Bob Bowcock who visited Monday and Tuesday to investigate.

Cancer survivor Stel Bailey, of Florida Health Connection, said Bowcock wanted the activist group inside the meeting with him, but when they tried to walk in, Mayor Frank Catino stopped them at the door.

"It's a meeting held by the city. It's a closed meeting," Catino can be heard in a video recorded by Sandra Sullivan.

The group was escorted outside and believe the city broke the state's open meeting laws. Under the Sunshine law, a "meeting" is any gathering of two or more members of a public body to discuss or take action regarding official business or policy.

The mayor and two council members were present Monday but officials rotated in and out of the council chamber.

"The meeting was posted online as a workshop so it was publicly announced," Sullivan said.

However, according to the city website, it was canceled.

Sullivan said she's filing a complaint with the state attorney's office.

"It was unfortunate because involvement of Erin Brockovich and Bob Bowcock started with myself and other people asking and begging for their help," Sullivan said.

Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker did not respond Wednesday to an interview request for this story.

News 6 obtained an email Barker sent to Bowcock.

"We have specifically left out people that we felt would be combative and nonproductive," Barker wrote. 

The public will be allowed at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, where the issue of the closed meeting is likely to come up again.

Brockovich, herself, is expected in town Sept. 29 when she will host a community meeting. Florida Health Connection is expected to release further details on that event.

Sullivan is hoping all parties can work together to find answers.

About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.