Monday, October 23, 2006

“Fishbowl Mediation”

Whoa! Wait a minute! According to this article in the Naples Daily News a long running power struggle between the Clerk of Court in Collier County, Florida and the Collier County Commissioners might be mediated [so far, so good]. The attorneys for Collier County have asked the Clerk of Courts to mediate in an effort to settle several lawsuits between the two government entities. [A good move!]

The Clerk agreed [another good move] but [and you know what that means] would do so on two conditions [here they come!]: [1] He wants the mediation sessions to be open to the public and [2] he wants all five county commissioners to take part in the mediation [Hmmm! What about the Government in the Sunshine Law?!?]. I know, that’s why condition number 1 is in play. However, Florida also has a Government in the Shade Law too [really; I’m not kidding here].

Florida requires governmental entities to conduct their business at meetings open to the public, i.e. “in the sunshine”. F. S. 286.011. However, the legislature created an exception to the sunshine law which permitted any governmental agency, its chief executive and attorney to meet in private [“Government in the Shade”] to discuss settlement negotiations or strategy. Take a look at F.S. 286.011(8) to see how confidentiality in mediation can be synchronized with Government in the Sunshine and the procedures to be followed.

After reading the article, what kind of protocols could be developed to address the concerns expressed by both sides [it can be done, you know]?

By the way, is what the Clerk of Courts suggesting really mediation or is it some other ADR process?

To email me, click Perry S. Itkin.