Dade schools vice chair who disinvited member from meeting calls for Sunshine Law talk

Less than two weeks after Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair Danny Espino and Roberto Alonso were criticized by fellow members for attempting to block the most senior board member from attending their two-member meeting, an action she likened to attending school in Alabama as a child, Espino is calling for a second meeting to discuss “Florida in the Sunshine meeting procedures.”

The meeting, which was posted Monday to the district’s master calendar, is scheduled for 3 p.m. May 9, a day before the board’s monthly committee meetings. It’s unclear what exactly will be discussed during the meeting. Espino, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in November to replace Christi Fraga, who ran successfully for Doral mayor, did not respond to requests for comment from the Herald.

Espino has also proposed an agenda item for the next board meeting on May 17. Details of the item, however, titled “Strengthening the Sunshine notice requirements for board member conferences,” were not available.


Generally, what the law requires is that if there’s an elected or appointed board, any gathering of two or more members to discuss something that may come before the board has to be noticed, said Edward Birk, general counsel of the Florida First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee and private practice lawyer in Jacksonville. As such, the meeting would be open to all.

The law doesn’t specify what is considered adequate notice, but at least seven days is recommended, he said, and guidelines suggest the notice have a time, place and agenda and displayed where the public is likely to see it. If there’s a certain place where meetings are noticed, future meetings should be noticed in the same place, he said.

The May 9 meeting comes after Espino and Alonso, who was successfully endorsed by DeSantis in last year’s August primary, met on April 18 to discuss minority participation in school board contracts. The meeting, while noticed, was not highly publicized, according to Local News 10, who first reported on the meeting.

Some raised concerns about the two-member meeting and why a conversation about minority procurement failed to have participation from Black and minority business owners.

But the issue that propelled some board members to call out the meeting the next day was the exchange between Espino and Alonso and School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, who showed up to the meeting shortly after it began.

Bendross-Mindingall, who was first elected to the board in 2010, said upon arrival she was informed she was not invited and could not participate. During the board meeting the next day, Bendross-Mindingall, who is Black, said she had “flashbacks” to going to school in Alabama and said she would never forget what happened.

“I went to school in Alabama and I don’t have to say anything else. What was legal wasn’t right,” she told the board during the April 19 meeting. “Please make no mistake because I respect this office, this building ... This is not resting well in the community. I was elected, not appointed. This is what we’re doing in 2023.”

In August, Bendross-Mindingall won reelection with more than 75% of the vote.


Board member Steve Gallon III, who initially raised the issue at the April 19 School Board meeting, saying he’d received calls from constituents and said the meeting was an “opening for significant division.”

On Monday, when asked about the newly posted meeting, he said it “wouldn’t be prudent for me to speculate on my colleague’s intent” for calling another meeting, although it is clearly allowable in policy. He wants all board members to be present and able to weigh in.

However, he said, he has also filed a board agenda item to “address issues that recently arose from the prior conference meeting held to ensure that any and all ambiguity is clarified and that is no repeat of some of the things that occurred.”

Chair Mari Tere Rojas apologized to Bendross-Mindingall on behalf of the board and called the event “unfortunate.”

Alonso, for his part, responded to the criticism directed at him and said he was disappointed with the “legal process” of the meeting and that there was “confusion” as it relates to how municipal sunshine meetings operate.