The Sunshine Law is turning out to be very inconvenient for the mayor of Riviera Beach.
Florida’s open government law requires notice for all public meetings, letting anybody know where and when they will be held.
For Mayor Thomas Masters, this just means tipping off the repo man.
Masters had his 2014 Subaru repossessed during an October city council meeting. There he was, inside, presiding over the meeting, while Strong Recovery was swooping in, putting his car on the hook and driving away with an involuntary repossession of a vehicle on behalf of a lien holder.
This doesn’t send the proper message. A mayor who gets a $750-a-month car allowance and is entrusted with being fiscally responsible with public money, can’t wonder every time he walks out of a meeting whether his parking space will be empty.
I blame the Sunshine Law.
It’s making it too easy to track down Masters. If there were no Sunshine Law, Masters might persuade his fellow council members to help him out by moving the meetings to a new secret location around town each time and announcing these meetings at the last minute.
Pop-up city council meetings. Keep the repo man guessing.
But as it stands now, the poor mayor is a sitting duck during these meetings. And unless his colleagues allow him to participate in future meetings remotely, perhaps by letting Masters sit in is car in the parking lot with an audio-visual link, it just may happen again.
Of course, Masters considers the repossession of his car a trivial event of no concern.
“One, it was a personal matter,” Masters told Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post. “Two, it was a misunderstanding. Three, we were able to straighten it out within a few hours.”
Masters blamed the repossession on a hurricane the previous month and his trip to China.
“There were a lot of moving parts,” he said.
But not automatic bill pay, apparently.
This isn’t the first time Mayor Masters has had a “personal matter” regarding his vehicle in Riviera Beach. He has had more car adventures than Thelma and Louise.
Earlier this summer, his city’s police department pulled him over for speeding and found that his driver license wasn’t valid. That was another misunderstanding.
A paperwork issue, was how he put it.
Police documented another incident when an officer pulled over Masters for blowing a red light in his car and driving twice the speed limit on Blue Heron Boulevard with his flashers on at 2:45 in the morning.
The officer didn’t ticket the mayor but wrote in her report that after she pulled him over, Masters reminded her that he signs her paycheck, and that he was on his way to visit his ailing mother.
The officer wrote that she offered to call 911 for him, but he refused, saying his mom usually recovers by the time the ambulance gets there.
That was in 2009, the same year that city police officers found Masters’ car illegally parked, and then had it towed because it had an expired license tag and no proof of insurance.
And there was the time Masters called 911 because he locked himself out of his car while campaigning. His vague call for help prompted the city to send a firetruck and an ambulance to respond to the mayor’s non-emergency matter.
So, Masters needs help. Or perhaps an Uber allowance instead of a car allowance.
But in the meantime, it would be awfully kind of us to restore the mayor’s dignity by giving Riviera Beach a pass on the Sunshine Law.
It’s making things too easy for the repo man.