Title: Brechner report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00002
 Material Information
Title: Brechner report
Series Title: 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: February 2000
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090012
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Volume 24, Number 2 U A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom oflun I ..,, College ofJournalism and Communications U University of Florida
February 2000

New report recommends sealing crime files

TALLAHASSEE --Crime investigators December, making a number of
should be allowed to keep their reports recommendations to current practices.
secret for three years, according In addition, the panel
to the Florida Public Corruption A C C E SS proposed making it a crime
Commission appointed by Gov. for anyone in government
Jeb Bush. The commission filed RECORD S to leak word of
a report with the Governor's office in mid- investigations to members of the press. The

commission recommends sealing
investigation files as a way to protect
However, watchdog groups and media
advocates believe these initiatives may
further erode the public's trust in
government. (12/15/99)

Conflict Resolution Act allows private settlements

ST. PETERSBURG-- Although less
than a year old, the new Conflict Resolution
Act is creating controversy and
making the law's sponsor review A C
the law's wording. One provision
of the new law allows city and MEE
county governments to settle
lawsuits without disclosing the details to
the public until settled.
The law was intended to implement a
mediation process for government
agencies. But in the process, it also


repealed a provision that city and county
governments approve any lawsuit
settlements for more than
E SS $5,000 at public hearings.
State Rep. Lee
1INGS Constantine, R-Altamonte
Springs, the sponsor of the
bill, has asked legislative attorneys to
research the effect of the bill. The bill was
not intended to allow local government to
hide anything from the public, according to
the legislator.

Lakeland approves surveillance cameras

LAKELAND--Without holding a CommissionerDonGifford. The
public hearing on the matter, the Lakeland Commission purchased the 16 cameras with
City Commission has approved the a grant from the U.S. Department of
installation of surveillance cameras in Housing and Urban Development.
public housing areas as a way to deter "We're going to keep those cameras in
crime. The cameras will be public areas," said
installed on public property, P RI V A C Y Lakeland police chief
which means that no prior SamBaca, "That's
individual approval for monitoring is always a controversial issue because
required. nobody wants to be watched."
Residents were contacted for Lakeland officials are treating the
support of the cameras and an overall tapes as public record and will make them
"Safe Neighborhood" plan designed to cut available for viewing at the police
down on crime, according to Lakeland City department's communications office.

Following the review, "amended
legislation may be proposed," according to
Chris Stewart, a legislative aide to Rep.
Constantine. (12/12/99)

Florida AG and

watchdog group join

in access fight
TAMPA--The Florida Attorney
General and the Florida First Amendment
Foundation are going to court to support
The Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg
Times in their public records fight with
Tampa General Hospital.
The two papers have challenged the
once public, now turned private, hospital
over access to records and meetings.
(Brechner Report, December, 1999) Last
fall, the papers won their case in
Hillsborough Circuit Court, but the hospital
appealed to the 2nd District Court of
Appeals in Lakeland.
Briefs supporting the two papers will
be filed by the Florida Attorney General and
the First Amendment Foundation. An
additional brief supporting Tampa General
Hospital will be filed by Bayfront Medical
Center in St. Petersburg. (12/29/99)


E-mail exchanges OK for city manager and assistant

CLEARWATER--No public record
laws were broken by the Clearwater city
manager and his assistant in e-mail
exchanges, according to a former federal
judge called in to review the case.
At issue was correspondence via a
private e-mail account established by City
Manager Mike Roberto, which he used to

Hospital trustee asks

INDIAN RIVER--Public funds will not
be available to help an Indian River
County Hospital trustee in his potential
defense for violating the state's Sunshine
Law. Last December, hospital trustee
Richard Aldrich asked the Board to
allocate up to $2,500 per board member
to defray any legal costs stemming from
the State Attorney's on-going
investigation. (Brechner Report, March,

communicate with his assistant Bill Home.
Bradenton attorney H. Hamilton "Chip"
Rice, Jr., the former Manatee County
attorney and federal judge, was hired by the
City Commission to review the incident.
The investigation was prompted by a
request from a St. Petersburg Times
reporter who requested copies of

The matter was tabled to allow Alan
Polackwich, the hospital's attorney, to
review the legal implications of such an
allocation. According to Polackwich, he
wrote to board members telling them that
funds can only be allocated following a
favorable ruling that clears a board
member of any changes and at the
discretion of the board.

Council members spend time in "Sunshine"

JACKSONVILLE --Members of the
Jacksonville City Council received a
marathon-training session in legal
procedures, just days after a possible
violation of the Sunshine law. According to
State Attorney Harry Shorstein, Council
President Ginger Soud and Councilmember
Jerry Holland may have violated the law by
providing one-word summaries of public
meetings held in their offices with other

elected officials.
In the six-hour session, city lawyers
reviewed compliance with the state open
meetings and records laws and proper
ethics for elected officials. They also
provided tips and pointers on recording
meetings. "Minutes are not that hard," said
Assistant General Counsel Steve Rohan. "A
little common sense will get us there."
(12/14/99 and 12/18/99)

Judge unseals materials in abortion trial

TALLAHASSEE --A 2nd Judicial evidence everybody should be able to see,
Circuit court judge in Tallahassee has but I don't think I need to know the
released training materials identities of the people to be able to
used by the National consider the evidence," said
Abortion Federation after C O U R T S Judge Terry Lewis. "That's not
removing the names of what's important."
patients and clinics. The The law, approved last
St. Petersburg Times filed a motion to year, was blocked by a temporary
unseal the materials which was evidence in injunction issued by Lewis. (Brechner
a trial over Florida's parental notice Report, September, 1999) That injunction
abortion law. is on appeal to the 1st District Court of
"I believe that whatever I have in Appeal. (12/11/99)

Roberto's e-mail.
According to Rice's report, "There was
insufficient evidence to conclude that there
was intentional, inappropriate use of private
e-mail accounts for public business."
While his investigation clears the two men,
it may prompt development of an employee
e-mail policy. (12/22/99)

Since last November, the State
Attorney's office has been investigating
Aldrich and fellow trustee Allen Seed
for potential Sunshine law violations,
including exchanging memos outside a
public meeting. (12/17/99)

School phone calls

on the record says

state AG
calls made using school district phones arn
public record, even if the call is personal
and the employee pays or reimburses the
school district for the call, according to a
recent legal opinion by the state Attorney
General's office.
"The records of calls made on such
equipment are retained by the school
district in the course of normal
operations," said state Attorney General
Bob Butterworth. "As such, these records
constitute public records." (AGO 99-74,


Copies of case opinions, attorney
general opinions, or !,.;,i la,,,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.

2 The Brechner Report U February 2000

for support with Sunshine legal fees


East Lake teacher wins settlement in Starr Report suit

a controversial issue is too racy for a
Last year, high school teacher Linda
Manning wanted to show selected
videotape highlights from President
Clinton's grand jury testimony about the
Monica Lewinsky affair. (Brechner

Sheriff wants equal radio air time

PINELLAS -- A Pinellas County
sheriff seeking re-election has requested
equal time after a popular morning radio
disk jockey filed campaign papers with the
Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office
and wrote to him requesting a debate.
Sheriff Everett Rice's campaign has
written Clear Channel Communications,
the corporate owners of WXTB-FM,

claiming that Bubba the Love Sponge Clem
(his legal name) is using his morning show
to promote his candidacy. In a letter
written by political consultant Wayne
Garcia, they say that Clem "routinely
advertises his candidacy on your station.
He frequently solicits campaign money
from his listeners and promotes his
campaign events and literature." (12/22/99)

LEE COUNTY -- A Lee County law
enforcement officer has posted another
controversial essay on his Web site, saying
he did not give up his First Amendment
rights when he became Sheriff. John
McDougall is confident that it will bring
another suit from a national rights group.
The sheriff's new message touches on
a number of topics, from his opposition to
abortion, to attacking the President, gays,
lesbians and the press. He says that he
feels compelled to speak out on national


issues. McDougall anticipates another suit
filed by Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State, who
threatened to sue him when he posted his
first web message last September.
County officials are critical of
McDougall's use of the official Web site for
expressing his personal views. "I would
hope that the sheriff would stick to local
law enforcement issues, but the sheriff is
the sheriff," said County Commissioner
JohnManning. (12/12/99)

New Editor for Brechner Report
GAINESVILLE --Jane Inouye studies at the University of Hawaii
is the new editor for The Brechner and is currently working on her
Report. Inouye has an extensive Master's program in Media Law at
print, broadcast and public the University of Florida.
relations background and has Please contact her with your
worked in Hawaii and Florida for comments, story ideas and changes
over 12 years. She has also taught Inouye you'd like to see in The Brechner
at the University of North Florida- Report. She canbe reached at: (352)
Inouye completed her undergraduate 392-2273.

PINELLAS --The debate on whether or
not to allow the classroom review of the
Kenneth Starr report was settled in
December by the Pinellas County school
district and an East Lake High School
teacher. The settlement established a
district review committee to judge whether

The Brechner Report February 2000 3

Report, February, 1999) She was prevented
from showing the tape by a county-wide ban
on the controversial material. Manning filed
suit, claiming that the ban violated her right
to free speech and was blocking academic
freedoms guaranteed by the First
Amendment. (12/4/99)

Ex-Miami mayor

loses libel suit
MIAMI --A libel suit filed last
September by former Miami Mayor Xavier
Suarez against The Miami Herald was
dismissed by a Miami-Dade Circuit Court
judge last December.
In his suit, Suarez "complained about
columnist Carl Hiaasen's characterization
of him as 'loony,' 'deranged,' 'crazy' and
paranoid' ina L
December 1997 LIBEL
(Brechner Report, November, 1999)
But according to Judge Amy Dean,
"the words...are expressions of pure
opinion in an opinion column in a
newspaper, based on facts disclosed in the
column or the newspaper or already
generally known to the readers." (12/4/99)

New web site messages may incite

activist ire for Lee County official


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Supreme Court upholds federal privacy act to close records

After years of challenges from states questioning whether legislation exactly the same as the DPPA or enact provisions
the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) violated similar to the DPPA and include opt-out provisions.
states' sovereign rights, the Supreme Court ruled in The opt-out provision allowed every person giving
January that the enaction of the DPPA was not an information to motor vehicles departments to request
unconstitutional use of congressional powers. that information not be disclosed to third parties. In
The Court held that because the legislation was a October 1999, Congress changed the opt-out provision
regulation of the sale of databases, which it to an opt-in provision, which made all records closed
considered an article of commerce, Congress did not unless a citizen requested they be open to the public.
violate 10't Amendment federalism principles by Michele Bush While all states responded to the DPPA by enacting
enacting the DPPA. Congress had the power to enact legislation carrying out its mandates, four states -
the legislation in accordance with the Commerce Clause. The North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Alabama challenged
Court reasoned that the DPPA does not require states in their the act on constitutional grounds, stating that the DPPA violated
sovereign capacities to regulate their citizens; instead it the 10th Amendment.
regulates states as the owners of databases. In each of the challenges brought forth by North Carolina,
The saga of the DPPA seems to be an example of how Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Alabama, the states claimed that the
Te access to public DPPA forced them to administer a federal regulating scheme.
B he information can be The Court rejected those arguments and said that the Act
Bk Page blocked by revising the regulates the "Universe of entities that participate as suppliers to
Intent of legislation. The the market for motor vehicle information," and states happen to
By Michele Bush DPPA was considered be the first stop in acquiring that information.
antistalking legislation until it was challenged in court, where Had Congress intended to regulate the sale of database
it transformed into commerce regulation. If the Act was truly information, it should have developed legislation that focused on
intended to regulate the sale and distribution of databases, it databases. The word database does not even appear in the DPPA.
should have been narrowly tailored to that effect. Instead, it The Court said it did not completely resolve the constitutionality
broadly blocks access to valuable public information. of the DPPA because the only issue before the court was
The DPPA, which was part of the Omnibus Violent Crime whether the DPPA violated states' 10th Amendment rights. It
Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, is federal did not weigh the balance between privacy and the access to
legislation requiring every state to limit access to its motor government information. The Act's regulations are not limited to
vehicle records. It was intended to protect citizens from the "Universe" that participates in marketing information.
invasions of privacy and from the criminal misuse of their Unfortunately, the Act also regulates anyone attempting to use
personal information. The DPPA limits access to motor the information for non-marketing activities.
vehicle records information such as photos, names, addresses,
telephone numbers, medical or disability information, social Michele Bush is a doctoral student at the University of
security information and driver's identification numbers. Florida's College of Journalism and Communications and
States had two choices, according to the DPPA: enact former editor of The Brechner Report.

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