ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – The Orange Soil & Water Conservation District, a little-known state agency, was entrenched in verbal fireworks and threats Friday, February 8, 2019 through former Board Chair and Supervisor Eric Rollings, who clashed with current Chair and Supervisor Daisy Morales over her compliance with the Florida Sunshine Law. The board’s monthly meeting was scheduled for 3:30pm in Orange County Commission Chambers.
Chair Morales and Seat 1 Supervisor Michael Barber were present and seated in the chambers ten minutes prior to the board’s designated meeting time Friday. Others present included Jacques Werleigh, strategic engagement coordinator with Orange County Environmental Protection Division (EPD), who wished to speak, USDA-NRCS District Conservationist Chuck O’Rourke and State Senator Victor Torres aide Debra Booth.
At 3:30pm, Chair Morales asked Supervisor Barber if the meeting was properly noticed to the public according to the Florida Sunshine Law. Supervisor Barber said he didn’t know since Seat 5 Supervisor Tiffany Dziekan, who was elected Secretary by the Board during its January 2019 meeting and responsible for providing proper notice of the meeting to the public, was absent from the meeting.
Supervisor Barber was Secretary prior to the January election.
With Vice Chair and Seat 4 Supervisor Dawn Curtis and Seat 3 Supervisor and Board Public Relations Representative Nicole McLaren also absent, Chair Morales and Supervisor Barber noted that there was no quorum and Chair Morales announced that due to no quorum and no proper public notice, the board will next meet March 8, 2019 at 3:30pm. She and the other attendees, except Supervisor Barber, departed five minutes later.
At approximately 3:40pm, former chair Eric Rollings, who appeared outraged and frustrated, stormed into the County Commission chambers to speak with Supervisor Barber. “Daisy has no right to do this. She has no right to adjourn anything!” he told Supervisor Barber and Florida National News, which was on hand to cover the meeting and interview Supervisor Barber.
Rollings slammed Chair Morales for her quick departure, stating that she could have waited for Vice Chair Curtis to arrive in order to have a quorum. “I’ve waited as long as thirty minutes to have a quorum to start a meeting,” he told Florida National News. He accused Chair Morales of not complying with state law and attempted to cite an Attorney General Opinion that challenges her decision to leave on the basis of public notice. “She’s crazy. She’s trying to manipulate people.” Rollings said that he would file a complaint against Chair Morales and blast the incident across social media.
“You can report on that, too,” Rollings repeatedly told FNN News.
Vice Chair Curtis arrived a few moments later. She too expressed frustration at Chair Morales’s departure. “This [departure] was deliberate,” she said.
Supervisor Barber said Rollings’s behavior was unnecessary. “It wasn’t that serious.”
Chair Morales told Florida National News in a phone interview that Rollings accosted her in the parking lot as she was leaving and prior to entering the chambers. “I was backing out, and he approached my car and knocked on my window,” Morales explained. “I rolled my window down and he said, ‘What are you doing? You can’t do this! You have no power, Daisy!'” She told Florida National News that she didn’t answer him and instead left to avoid further harassment and bullying.
According to Chair Morales, all Supervisors were given notice roughly 20 days prior to the meeting to arrive timely in order to have a quorum.
THE PUBLIC NOTICE ISSUE
According to the February 2018 meeting minutes, Supervisor Dziekan proposed changing the meeting time from 3pm because it presented a challenge for her to arrive to the meetings on time. Chair Rollings suggested 3:30pm could work as the new time, which was accepted by the board, effective from March 2018 forward.
While the board agreed to the new time, the meeting information listed for the public on the Orange County Administration’s message board still had the old time listed–3pm, which caused EPD’s Werleigh to arrive at that time.
According to the Florida Sunshine Law, conservation district meetings require three supervisors physically present to have a quorum and a minimum seven days’ advanced public notice in order for a meeting to proceed.
Rollings’s admission of waiting thirty minutes to have a quorum appears to be a violation of Florida Sunshine Law. A thirty-minute delayed start warrants a new meeting, which could not satisfy the Florida Sunshine Law’s required seven-day minimum to notify the public.
Chair Morales told FNN News that she wants to ensure the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District is in compliance with rules and state law to better serve the people of Orange County.