Volume 28, Number 5 E A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of In ,,~ .'. ..., College ofJournalism and Communications U University ofFlorida
Tampa City Council Supreme Court declines to hear case,
/- .* -U-
gets Sunsine Law
TAMPA City Council members were
given a refresher course on Florida's
Sunshine Law, following an investigation
by the state Attorney General's Office.
Citizen activist Terry Neal, who filed a
complaint after a Tampa City Council
ACCESS prompted the
been attending private lunches with the
Greater Tampa Chamberof Commerce
quarterly for years, participants said. A
St. Petersburg Times reporter brought
attention to the situation after happening
upon one of the luncheon meetings.
"It's illegal and I was shocked," Neal
said. "The Sunshine Law has been in
place for many years and has helped the
media, but for average citizens, I don't
think we have tested the limits of the
Florida's Sunshine Law says
government officials must notify the
public when two or more of them meet to
discuss business. The chamber and
council failed to notify the public of their
Feb. 12 meeting.
Council ChairwomanLinda Saul-Sena
said the meetings shouldn't have taken
place without public notice and access,
but council's legal advisor, Gina Grimes,
To clear up confusion, City Attorney
Fred Karl asked Patricia Gleason, general
council to Attorney General Charlie Crist,
to conduct a workshop with the council.
Gleason discussed the law's
requirements with the council and about
30 city employees and advisory board
"...This is the way [citizens] believe
the government should operate," Gleason
sets precedent for secret proceedings
WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme closely watched by civil libertarians
Court declined to hear the case of since.
MohamedKamel Bellahouel, whose legal The government's argument to keep
status is being kept secret because of the the case sealed to protect national
government's war on terrorism. security was never made public, and
Bellahouel, an Algerian native who is Bellahouel's federal assistant public
married to an American woman, waited defender, Paul Rashkind, claimed he can'
tables at a restaurant in Delray Beach at say a lot about the case because of court
the same time that several terrorists were orders.
training in South Florida Tallahassee lawyerBarry
forthe Sept. 11, 2001 C O U R T ST Richard said the Court may
attacks. 12 C O U R T S have passed on Bellahouel's
Federal agents case because it will likely
detained him in October 2001 on an consider other detainee cases that deal
immigration hold, believing he may have with more fundamental issues, like that o
served two hijackers food and possibly accused "dirty" bomb plotter Jos6
attended a movie with one of them. Padilla.
David Silk, his immigration lawyer, said Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment
FBI agents investigated him and found advocate, fears the precedent this case
no reason to charge him. presents.
Bellahouel was released on an "The problem is that we now have a
immigration bond, but his entire case was precedent for entirely secret judicial
kept off of public records, according to proceedings and that until the court doe:
The Miami Herald. His case number did take such a case, we will always be at risi
not even officially exist. His case was of more proceedings being held in
accidentally discovered by a reporter for secret," he said.
The Miami Daily Business and has been (2/24/04)
Former superintendent files lawsuit,
claims state Sunshine Law violations
FORTMYERS-Former denied any wrongdoing and said that
Superintendent John Sanders filed a Sanders' poor performance led them to
lawsuit against four of five Lee County fire him.
school board members, claiming they In January, an administrative judge
violated Florida's Sunshine,, -, agreed they had a right to do
Law and state Public RecordsA CC E SS so.
Laws. But Johnston claimed that
Sanders'lawyer, Richard MEETINGS Roberts' testimony gives him
Johnston, said the suit is the ammunition he needs to
based on the testimony of former district prove that Sanders was fired because of
auditor Martha Roberts, who swore back room deals.
under oath in a separate case that the "If there is a violation of the Sunshine
school board members conspired to fire Law, any action taken outside of the
Sanders. Sunshine Law is void," he said. "That
The accused school board members means it never happened." (3/18/04)
ACCESS RECORDS CONTINUED
records available at
NAPLES U.S. government records
and information are now accessible to
students and the public through
International College's Information
Resource Center. The Florida college is
the first Federal Depository designee in
the 14t Congressional District, which
includes Collier and Lee counties, as well
as a part of Charlotte County.
"This is very important because the
Sunshine State is renowned for its
Government in the Sunshine Laws,"
Florida Congressman Porter Goss said.
"It creates a bond between the
government and its people."
Congress established the Federal
Depository Library Program in 1813. Its
designated libraries provide records and
information on careers, business
opportunities, consumer information,
health and nutrition, legal and regulatory
matters and demographics.
According to Goss, the International
College staff members were responsible
for applying for the Federal Depository
designation. Melody Hainsworth, the
college's vice president for Information
Resources and Services, led the
"It's [the library] going to provide a
mountain of information not only for the
students here, but for the entire
community," he said. "It's going to be
used a lot, for the right reason. It will
serve the people of this country."
He added that the information is
accessible online at www.international
college.edu/irc/govdocs.htm in addition
to on site. (2/24/04)
Copies of case opinions, Florida
Attorney General opinions, or
l." ,ia,. i reported in any issue as
on file" may be obtained upon
request from the Brechner Center for
Freedom of Information, College of
Journalism and Communications,
3208 Weimer Hall, P.O. Box 118400,
University ofFlorida, Gainesville, FL
32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.
opened to the public
PANAMA CITY Circuit Judge Office, County Judge Thomas Welch
Dedee Costello ruled in favor of The denied the newspaper's request. Welch
News Herald and ordered search said he was concerned about sensitive
warrants in the Girls Gone Wild criminal information in the affidavits and asked
case open for public inspection, the prosecutors for an opinion on
Her ruling, the first by a state court releasing the documents. Prosecutors
judge, connected a constitutional right to argued that search warrants should be
the public's right to access served search sealed if their release would compromise
warrants, an ongoing investigation, citing the
"The bright glare of sunlight should decision in Florida Publishing Co. v.
be focused on the Court's records to State.
insure that the respect enjoyed by the Costello disagreed after looking at The
Courts will endure," Costello wrote in her News Herald attorney John Bussian's
ruling, argument that the situation should be
Last year, Girls Gone Wild producer looked at as a constitutional issue.
Joseph Francis was arrested in Panama Costello ordered the Bay County court to
City Beach after a search of his allo\ access to the records sought."
condominiums and private jet. The News "This Court must conclude that the
Herald asked for copies of the search public's right to be involved and
warrants to determine the probable cause knowledgeable about its Court system
investigators used to initiate the search, cannot be impugned by a blanket rule
Traditionally, such documents are that makes no distinction between
available to the public after the search executed and unexecuted search warrant
warrant is served. materials," Costello said in her ruling.
But, after a call to the State Attorney's (3/03/04)
ACLU says Matrix could invade privacy
TAMPA The American Civil data-mining last year when it refused
Liberties Union (ACLU) believes that a funding for the Pentagon's Terrorism
new multistate police database tool Information Awareness (TIA) program,
invades the privacy of American citizens, which attempted to analyze numerous
according to its "Data Mining Moves databases of personal information to find
into the States" issue brief. terrorists.
The Multistate Anti-Terrorism But, according to a St. Petersburg
InformationExchange (Matrix) was Times editorial, the extent of federal
created by Seisint Inc., a Florida involvement in developing the Matrix
company, and gives police exceeds normal policing. The
computerized access to ? PR IVA CY ( system was created with a $4-
numerous records. IVL Vmillion grant from the Justice
Recently, more than Department and the
two-thirds of the 16-member states Department of Homeland Security has
withdrew from the Matrix. In March, New promised an additional $8 million. The
York and Wisconsin withdrew, leaving FBI, Secret Service and former
only five actively involved states: ImmigrationandNaturalization Service all
Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, assisted in its development.
Connecticut and Ohio. The ACLU determined that the Matrix
In the past, Florida officials assured will not be restricted to freely available
the public that the Matrix would only public records, as initially claimed.
contain public records that police According to a slide show obtained from
normally use in routine investigations. In the Michigan Department of State Police,
addition, they promised the system the system will offer "20+ billion records
would not be used for data-mining, which from 100s of sources," including
analyzes data from several sources to commercial databases.
identify patterns of suspicious activity. The ACLU filed a request with the
The ACLU claimed it found Florida Department of Law Enforcement
documents showing the system will be on Oct. 20, 2003, to obtain information on
used to find potential terrorist activity by the kinds of commercially collected
looking at billions of pieces of information that will be part of the Matrix.
information on all Americans. To date, the agency has not responded.
Congress disapproved this kind of (3/15/04)
2 The Brechner Report May 2004
ACCESS RECORDS CONTINUED
Grand jury report to be made public
WEST PALM BEACH Ajudge ruled One of the state's juvenile justice
that the Department of Juvenile Justice officials asked Chief Circuit Judge
(DJJ) must make a grand jury report on a Edward Fine to expunge the entire report,
girls' prison available to the public, or parts the department felt were
The report included taped testimony "improper."
from Florida Institute for Girls' managers, Fine ruled that the four disputed
workers and inmates. Jury members were
examining problems at the suburban
West Palm Beach prison, including
sexual misconduct and the use of violent
Frank Kreidler, American Civil
Liberties Union attorney, sued the
agency last year under the Public
Records Law, arguing that the state
should not hold back an impartial citizen
"A public agency like the DJJ has a
duty and responsibility to answer critical
reports such as the grand jury report, not
to try to keep them hidden from the
public," Kreidler said.
sections were relevant and based on
facts and, therefore, would stay in the
report. He added that one of the
department's objections "does not
dispute any facts or conclusions, but
promises that the agency will do a better
job in the future."
Spokeswoman Catherine Arnold said
the department does not want to hide the
report, but simply make sure that it is
The agency will respond to the report
and take "whatever actions are necessary
based on the grand jury
recommendations or findings," she said.
( 1 2,,!4)
DCF ends tape-recorded reports
MIAMI The Department of Children Patricia Gleason, general council to
& Families (DCF) administrator stopped Attorney General Charlie Crist, said that
requiring tape-recorded memos from her state law requires all correspondence to
deputies to avoid possible public records be retained for at least three years before
violations, according to The Ledger it can be destroyed. She added that
(Lakeland). public records should not be kept in
Deputy Secretary Cathleen J. officials' homes or cars.
Newbanks will no longer ask her eight Newbanks, who joined the DCF in
department heads to do their weekly November 2003, said she told colleagues
reports on audio tape. they could tape over their recordings to
The concern came about after The save taxpayers money.
Miami Herald asked for copies of reports She claimed she wasn't aware of
and the agency had trouble locating Florida's Public Records Laws and their
them. Six tapes were found, but it took strong requirements.
days to find an additional 14 records in "She has now been advised of
Newbank's car. Florida's Public Records Laws and the
Officials told The Herald that one or errorwill not recur," Sam Kramer, chief of
two of the records may have been erased staff forDCF Secretary Jerry Regier, said.
or taped over. (1/27/04)
Court rules that county violated law
HERNANDO COUNTY-The 5th development review committee meetings
District Court of Appeal ruled that violated the state's open government law
Hernando County must include the by excluding the public and, therefore,
public in meetings to review development Wal-Mart's permit should be invalid.
plans. The appellate court found that the
The decision upheld Senior Judge meetings did violate the Sunshine Law,
John W. Booth's ruling on but didn't invalidate the permit.
the suit filed by the
Coalition for Anti-Urban A C C
Sprawl and the MEETI
In 2002, the environmental group filed
suit against the county over a Wal-Mart
SuperCenter that was completed last
year. The group claimed that the
The county was required to pay
the legal fees of lawyer Ralf
Brookes, who represented
No\\ i1.it ihe litigation is over, we'll
probably review this and decide what to
do next," Kurt Hitzemann, assistant
county attorney, said. (1/21/04)
Clear Channel pays
fine for indecency
TAMPA Clear Channel
Communications, Inc. paid a record
$755,000-fine for airing indecent material,
according to an article in The Tampa
The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) proposed the fine on
Jan. 27 for crude comments in
broadcasts by deejay Bubba "the Love
Clear Channel decided to pay the fine
on the final day of the 30-day period in
which it could appeal.
"We fully accept our responsibility
for airing inappropriate content, and our
company will accept the consequences,"
Clear Channel Radio President and Chief
Executive Office John Hogan said.
The company also announced its new
"responsible broadcast initiative,"
including employee training and
possible consequences for indecent
"[The company] simply does not
want to be associated with indecency,"
Hogan said. "We know we can deliver
great radio without compromising our
integrity as broadcasters."
Clear Channel's fine was the largest
single indecency fine ever proposed by
the FCC. The largest cumulative fine
was $1.7 millionin 1995, paidby Infinity
Broadcasting for material aired by host
Clem was fired from WXTB onFeb.
23, despite his strong ratings.
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The Brechner Report May 2004 3
Florida open government laws true to Lincoln's vision
Government in the sunshine has been a cherished Our laws and constitution provide the strong
right in our state for many generations of Floridians. foundation for open government to flourish at both the
Over the years, the Sunshine and Public Records Laws state and local levels. However, public officials must
have opened the doors to countless governmental know the law in order to ensure that citizen rights are
meetings and records that are hidden from the public in .. protected. The Attorney General's Office has
other states. historically made open government education and
Every day, Floridians use these laws to make their training a priority, and I intend to continue that
communities a better place to live and work. They important commitment.
The attend city council Each year, the Office of the Attorney General
B a k Pa e meetings, participate in Charlie Crist prepares the Florida Government in the Sunshine
school advisory councils, Manual, which is used as a reference for the Sunshine and Public
By Charlie Crist research and report on Records Laws by government officials and citizens alike. The
government programs. In these manual, published by the First Amendment Foundation,
and countless other ways, President Lincoln's vision of a summarizes public access court decisions, legislation and
government of the people, by the people, and for the people, advisory opinions issued by this office.
stands the test of time. We also write and distribute a public records guide for law
In Florida, government records and meetings are generally enforcement agencies that is designed to address the special
open to the public unless the Legislature has adopted a statute public records issues affecting criminal justice agencies.
providing for confidentiality. Individual agency officials do not Electronic editions of both publications, as well as answers to
decide on their own which government records should be open frequently asked questions about open government, are available
and which should remain secret. Openness is the rule unless the at the Office of the Attorney General Web site:
Legislature determines that privacy, security or other significant http://myfloridalegal.com.
interests prevail and justify closure. The Sunshine and Public Records Laws give every Floridian
The Florida Constitution helps to secure open government by the ability to secure the information needed to support programs
making it difficult to undermine the public's right of access, that work and dismantle those that do not, and to be
unless compelling reasons for nondisclosure are present. knowledgeable of meetings where issues affecting the citizens
Enacted in 1992, the open government constitutional amendment are being discussed.
provides that exemptions to the Sunshine and Public Records Without knowledge, we can neither learn from the past nor
Laws must state the public necessity justifying the exception and prepare for the future.
may be no broader than necessary to accomplish that purpose. It is my hope that agencies at all levels of government will take
In 2002, Floridians voted overwhelmingly to strengthen the advantage of the public meetings and records training
constitution by approving an amendment requiring a 2/3 vote of opportunities offered by the Attorney General's Office, the First
each house of the Legislature before exemptions could be Amendment Foundation and governmental organizations. Our
enacted into law. When questions arose whether a 2/3 vote was General Counsel and open government expert, Pat Gleason, has
required in every instance, this office responded with an conducted countless hours of training in this important area.
advisory opinion stating that the constitutional amendment is Our challenge is to ensure a compliance rate of 100 percent for
clear a 2/3 vote is required for all exemptions, whether newly public officials at all levels. As Floridians, we must require
enacted or readopted. nothing less from our government.
Some lament that the opinion results in a slower review
process for exemptions, but we must not forget that the will of Charlie Crist is Florida's 35th Attorney General. Prior to
the people must prevail. Open government is right for Florida taking the position in January 2003, he served as Florida's
and any exceptions to that rule must be carefully considered. Commissioner of Education.