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Council to meet ‘in the shade’ to discuss security concerns

By Staff | Jul 12, 2009

Visiting the Cape Coral City Council chambers for a meeting one day might be an experience similar to passing through security at Southwest Florida Inter-national Airport.
City Council and staff are set to meet “in the shade” at 3 p.m. today at City Hall to discuss increasing security measures during regular and special meetings.
The change was prompted by angry public outbursts and walkouts during a recent spate of meetings where payment options for the utilities expansion project were discussed.
Security devices are already planned to be in place at Tuesday’s UEP meeting at First Baptist Church. Wands, possibly a metal detector, could be used.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini said some city employees have recently been experiencing concern over the heightened emotion of recent meetings.
She added that a discussion of security measures was “long overdue,” and pointed to security measures already in place for Fort Myers’ city council.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, in general, especially with the economy. Sometimes tempers flare and they don’t mean to,” she said. “It depends on what happens when the eight of us get together and mull it over … it’s sometimes very difficult to install security measures on an open government process.”
Mayor Jim Burch, too, said he has received comments from both city staff and council, expressing their concerns about meeting safety.
He said that he did not feel there were any major security concerns, but that it was “time to discuss these things.”
He pointed out that City Council has implemented some safety measures over the years, including having Cape Coral police officers attend meetings.
“I’m not concerned with security, but there are certainly people who are,” he said.
According to a statutory ex-ception to the state’s Sunshine Law, governing bodies are allowed to meet in private when it comes to matters of security.
According to the sunshine manual, s. 286.011, F.S. Section 281.301, F.S., exempts meetings (in the sunshine) of a board “when the board discusses issues relating to the security systems for any property owned or leased by the board or for any privately owned or leased property which is in the possession of the board.”