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Title: The Brechner report ; vol. 24 no. 1
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Title: The Brechner report ; vol. 24 no. 1
Series Title: The Brechner Report
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, College of Journalism and communications, University of Florida
Publisher: Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2000
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Volume ID: VID00001
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THE



BRECHNER


REPORT

Volume 24, Number 1 U A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of I, ..i. ..,, College ofJournalism and Communications U University of Florida
January 2000

Herbert: search for UF president should be public


TALLAHASSEE University system
Chancellor Adam Herbert said he is
committed to making the ongoing searches
for presidents at the University of Florida
and University of South Florida the most
public in the state's history, reported the
St. Petersburg Times.
Herbert said he hopes to find a
permanent president at UF by next fall. The
next USF's president could be named as
early as March.
However, critics of the public search
claim that it may discourage many of the
best candidates from applying. UF's former

Court imposes $250
fine for law violation
ANNA MARIA Judge Doug
Henderson, 12th Judicial Circuit, ordered
Anna Maria mayor Chuck Shumard to pay a
$250 fine after Shumard pleaded no
contest to one count of a non-criminal
Public Records Law violation. Henderson
did not record Shumard as guilty of
the offense.
The charge stems from the complaint
filed last spring by The Island Bystander
that accused the mayor of withholding
applications for a vacant city clerk position.
On April 15, a circuit judge ordered
Shumard to release the records, and the
mayor complied.
Earlier this fall, Henderson acquitted
Shumard of another Public Records Law
violation. (Brechner Report, November
1999) Anna Maria resident James Conoly
claimed the mayor did not respond timely
to his request to inspect applications for a
city clerk position. In that case, Henderson
held Shumard turned over the requested
records within a reasonable time. (10/28/99)


president John Lombardi said the state's
emotional commitment to open searches
only drives the real
evaluationunderground, A C C I
according to the
news story. MEETIN
Under the state law,
the university "search committees" must
operate in public. The law provides an


exemption for the activities of a search
committee for the State University System
Chancellor up to the point of
S transmitting the list of nominees to
the Board of Regents.
-S Herbert was selected chancellor
two years ago in a search where only
the names of finalists were subject to the
state access laws. (10/24/99)


Investigation completes without charges


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY The State
Attorney's Office cleared several Indian
County School Board members of alleged
Open Meetings Law violations. Assistant
State Attorney Chris Taylor said there was
no evidence that two or more board
members discussed the addendum to the
superintendent's contract when they signed it.
Vero Beach resident Brian Heady
claimed that the board violated the state law
last November, when it signed an addendum
extending superintendent Roger Dearing's
contract behind closed doors. Dearing


argued that the meeting was housekeeping
for an action that took place four months
earlier, when the board approved the
contract.
In September, the State Attorney's
Office started the investigation after the
circuit court dismissed Heady's civil
complaint for the lack of specificity.
(Brechner Report, October 1999)
Taylor wrote in his report that the
signing of the addendum did not constitute
formal action, but rather "reflected what had
already occurred." (11/10/99)


Webb sues school board for legal fees
PENSACOLA- An Escambia County White, 1st Judicial Circuit, reversed
School Board member, who spent seven Webb's conviction saying prosecutors
days in jail for Public failed to admit into evidence any
Records Law violations A C C E SS public record she allegedly withheld
before being acquitted by from Watson. (Brechner Report,
an appellate judge, sued RECORiDS December 1999) Prosecutors have
the school board to asked the court of appeals to
recover $188,000 in legal fees. reinstate Webb's conviction.
In May, Vanette Webb was convicted of The school board refused to pay Webb's
knowingly withholding public records from legal fees on grounds that the appeal is still
a parent Susan Watson who had been pending and that she did not perform a public
critical of Webb. Gov. Jeb Bush also service when she incurred the legal bills.
suspended Webb from her office. Webb's lawyer argued that her defense
(Brechner Report, July 1999) served a public purpose by returning Webb
However, in October, Judge William to the office. (11/19/99)


S^
G^







ACCESS RECORDS CONTINUED


Judge orders power company to disclose settlement terms


LEON COUNTY- Judge Terry Lewis,
2nd Judicial Circuit, ordered a group of
municipal utilities to make public the terms
of its legal settlement with the Florida
Power & Light Group (FPL).
The settlement ended an eight-year-old
legal battle between the Orlando-based
Florida Municipal Power Agency and the


FPL Group of Juno Beach, which provides
electricity to 3.8 million customers in
Florida. The Florida Municipal Power
Agency claimed that FPL broke its contract
to sell electricity to the utilities including
power companies in Clewiston, Fort Pierce
and Vero Beach.
Under the agreement reached in October,


FPL will pay the utilities a cash settlement
and enter into a new power-buying
agreement, giving the city utilities the right
to buy power at a specific price.
The Palm Beach Post sued the power
company for access to the settlement, and
the circuit judge ruled in the newspaper's
favor. (11/24/99)


Zoning expert claims county attorney withheld records


PASCO COUNTY A consultant
working for several Pasco County adult
clubs filed a complaint with the State
Attorney's Office claiming that former


Judge keeps murder

records confidential
BRADENTON Judge Scott Brownell,
12th Judicial Circuit, denied The
Bradenton Herald's request to open law
enforcement records related to a triple
homicide.
In September, Sherry Brannon and her
two young daughters were found murdered
in their Panther Ridge home. Police
arrested one suspect, but said it was still
investigating the possibility that others may
have been involved.
Brownell ruled that materials related to
the homicide, including search warrants,
affidavits and inventories of the detectives'
searches, should remain sealed because
they pertain to an active criminal
investigation. (11/02/99)


DECISIONS

ON FILE

Copies of case opinions, attorney
general opinions, or !,.,,i ,,t,.i re-
ported in any issue as on file may be
obtained upon request from the
Brechner Center for Freedom of In-
formation, College of Journalism and
Communications, 3208 Weimer Hall,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.


Assistant County Attorney R.C. Burnette
violated the Public Records Law by
withholding a study on regulating adult
businesses.
Bruce McLaughlin filed the complaint
after the county commission passed a new
zoning ordinance in October, which
requires adult entertainment establishments
to locate only in industrial parks.
(Brechner Report, December 1999)


The complaint focuses on a study
allegedly considered by the city of Detroit
when it enacted its adult-use ordinance.
McLaughlin claims that Burnette failed to
allow public inspection of the study
because the study does not exist. By
bringing the study into evidence, Burnette
mislead county commissioners,
McLaughlin alleges in his complaint.
(11/30/99)


School Board changes records policy


BARTOW The Polk County School
Board changed its policy on releasing
student information, barring access to
commercial entities.
Under the new policy, information may
be released only for purposes that could be
considered part of the educational program
or as a function of the school's guidance


services. For instance, the military and
prospective colleges or universities could
receive the information which will be
unavailable for department stores.
In July, a group of parents challenged the
school district's practice of releasing
student names and addresses to retailers
advertising school uniforms. (10/27/99)


ACCESS MEETINGS CONTINUED


City Councilman admits possible violation


OVIEDO The Oviedo City Council
closed an investigation into possible Open
Meetings Law violations by newly elected
city councilmen Tom O'Hanlon and Chris
Jepson after O'Hanlon admitted that he
may have violated the spirit of the law.
Several Oviedo residents requested the
council launch a two-week investigation
after the council's Oct. 4 meeting. At the
meeting, both O'Hanlon and Jepson called
for the dismissal of City Manager
Williford, saying they heard complaints
about his services during their campaign.


Residents claimed the two councilmen met
privately to discuss the move to oust
Williford.
O'Hanlon and Jepson, who have been
friends for 12 years, admitted to meeting
privately multiple times after they had been
elected, but said they did not discuss public
matters.
City Attorney urged the council to drop
the investigation after O'Hanlon admitted
in a written statement that, "it is possible
that I may have unintentionally violated the
spirit of the Sunshine Law." (11/2/99)


2 The Brechner Report U January 2000







BROADCASTING


Jail interview halted because of prosecutor's taping


TAMPA A defense attorney halted a
murder suspect's interview with a WFLA
news crew after learning that state
prosecutors also were taping the interview,
with the reporters' knowledge.
Hillsborough County sheriff, who heads


Court throws out

$10-millionlibelsuit
ST. PETERSBURG Actress Mimi
Rogers has dropped her $10-million libel
suit against Home Shopping Network and
I E L the National
LIBEL Enquirer after a
federal district court
held that the tabloid's account of her
behavior at the St. Petersburg TV network
was essentially true.
In May 1998, Rogers took badly the
news that the network cancelled two of her
appearances, in which Rogers promoted her
line of exercise devices. An unknown
network employee leaked an internal report
to the National Enquirer, which published
a story saying that Rogers "cursed like a
sailor" and trashed a TV studio room.
The California federal district court
ruled that the network and the tabloid did
not defame Rogers because the published
story was largely true. (11/19/99)


the jail, said news organizations are not
allowed to conduct on-camera interviews
with suspects unless they agree to taping by
law enforcement authorities.
WFLA news director, Dan Bradley, said
he wasn't sure he had an obligation to


notify the public defender about the
prosecutor's camera, reported
The Tampa Tribune.
Valessa Robinson, 16, is charged with
murdering her mother in June 1998.
(10/28/99)


Henley files suit over domain names

SARASOTA- Ex-Eagles drummer, Don who controls about 2,000 Internet domain
Henley, sued a Sarasota man for violating names that he sells at prices ranging from
copyright law by $5,000 to $100,000.
using web C (OP Y RIG T Henley is seeking an
addresses that injunction against Elsis'
include Henley's name and the name of his use of the domain names, the transfer of the
former band, The Eagles. names to Henley and the Eagles, and the
Henley filed the suit in a California payment of damages and attorney's fees.
federal district court against Mark Elsis, (11/4/99)


Judge steps down to avoid perception of bias
WEST PALM BEACH Judge Peter he was corrupt. McGann lost his bid for
Blanc, 15th Judicial Circuit, stepped down reelection to Marge Callahan, who is
from a defamation suit Moffitt's political ally.
filed against Riviera C O U R T S McGann asked Blanc to disqualify
Beach Councilwoman himself because the judge previously


Marilyn Moffitt in order to avoid
a perception of bias.
Former Riviera Beach Councilman
Bucky McGann sued Moffitt claiming that
a political cartoon on a flier she circulated
during the 1998 election campaign implied


Court upholds federal law against child porn


ELEVENTH CIRCUIT The U.S. Court
of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the
constitutionality of the federal Child
Pornography Prevention Act of 1996.
Jack Acheson pleaded guilty to charges
of possessing more
than 500 computer OBSC
images of _OBSv
child pornography.
However, he claimed that the Act violated
the First Amendment by not providing a
clear definition of what constitutes
"virtual" child pornography.
Under the Act, any visual representation
that depicts or appears to depict a minor
engaging in a sexually explicit conduct


-U
-4.


constitutes child pornography.
The federal court of appeals held that
child pornography is unprotected speech
which the government can regulate. The
court held that the Act "defines the criminal
offenses with enough
N I 1T certainty to put an
N I ordinary person on
notice that possessing
images appearing to be children engaged in
sexually explicit conduct is illegal."
The court also stressed that the Act
applies only to people who knowingly
receive or distribute computer child
pornography. (Decision on File, U.S. v.
Acheson, No. 98-3559, Nov. 12, 1999)


admitted he knew Moffitt, once sold a car
to her, and had made negative comments
about the case during a hearing. (10/28/99)


The Brechner Report January 2000 3


THE
BRECHNER
REPORT

Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, P 0 Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gamesville, FL 32611-8400
http //www jou ufl edu/brechner/brochure htm
e-mail jthomas@jouufl edu
Irina Dmitrieva, Editor
Jackie Thomas, Production Coordinator
Allyson Beutke, Prod. Assistant
Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Director
Bill F. Chamberlin, Ph.D., Founding Director
The Brechner Report is published 12 times a year
under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The Brechner Report is a joint effort of
The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, the
University of Florida College of Journalism and
Communications, the Florida Press Association, the
Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida Society
of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L Brechner
Endowment





























Investigation by Indiana newspapers brings changes


We knew if we had a problem getting public
records, everyone else did.
It was a simple enough statement to kick off a
statewide project with an unprecedented coalition of
seven newspapers in Indiana.
But it took months and months of planning before
a single reporter went to a government agency for
what has now become known as "the audit." Kyle Nie
Ninety-two counties. Five public records in each
county. Three different government offices to visit. You do
the math.
Yet, nary an editor or reporter questioned the simplicity of
the project. And no one questioned sharing stories, bylines,
The publishing the results on
B k e the same day, or the
B C Page h division of the work load.

By Kyle Niederpruem That's not to say there
weren't obstacles to
overcome in investigating "The State of Secrecy."
We had our moments. We had our doubts. But several
agreements ruled the day. The audit must be statewide. It must
have key stories published by all papers as the main budget. Each
of the newspapers could individually tailor an accompanying
"local" budget. The series must include real people with
real stories.
In the end, we believe it was the last element that caught the
attention of elected officials and policy makers. While we
certainly had an issue with government denials and non-
compliance, others did, too. Many more than we could have
anticipated. And as the stories were published, more citizens
called us with their tales.
Results were swift. A legislative study committee heard such
outrageous stories as to be unbelievable, such as local


derpruem


government agencies that used a dress code to deny
those seeking public documents. A governor's task
force met during the same months, taking its hearings
on the road.
Several bills became law. One created the office of
a public access counselor to mediate disputes over
meetings and records. To date, she's responded to
nearly 1,000 queries and complaints and has
conducted 75 educational conferences in Indiana.


Copying fees, once as high as $7 a record in some parts of the
state, are now standardized. Local ordinances continue to be
passed dropping fees to "actual costs" or as little as four cents
a page.
Years of lobbying by media interests could not have brought
about the same reforms in the Hoosier state.
And other states are taking notice.
Audits have been published in North Carolina, Virginia,
Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and Arkansas. Three other
audits are underway but have yet to be published. So far, none
have found or asked broadcast organizations to be partners in
these investigative stories. But imagine what would happen if a
surly sheriff was caught on an undercover video by a local TV
station.
I'd imagine it would take even less time for sunshine laws to
be reformed.

Kyle Elyse Niederpruem is the president of the Society of
Professional Journalists and a reporter for one of seven
Indiana newspapers that won this year's Joseph L. Brechner
Center for Freedom of Information award. The five-part
series, titled "The State of Secrecy: Indiana flunks the test on
access," detailed the abysmal compliance rate with the state's
public record law.




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