Volume 31, Number 3 0 A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information U College of Journalism and Communications U University of Florida
Sunshine Week spurs dialogue on
open government, access issues
WASHINGTON D.C. The third on March 16 at the National Press Club
annual Sunshine Week is set for March in Washington D.C. and a "Closed Doors;
11-17, withjournalists Ben Bradlee, Tom Open Democracies?" teleconference
Brokaw and Judy Woodruff named as broadcast by Open the Government.org.
honorary chairs. Sunshine Week is an expansion of
The goal of Sunshine Week is to Sunshine Sunday, a Florida event where
raise awareness about open newspapers publish
government and freedom of O P E N editorials, cartoons
information. and news stories
The American Society of GOVERNMENT highlighting open
Newspaper Editors, through government issues.
a grant from the John S. and James L. This year's sixth annual Sunshine
Knight Foundation, sponsors Sunshine Sunday is scheduled for March 11.
Week. For more information about Sunshine
Proposed events include the National Week or Sunshine Sunday, visit www.
Freedom of Information Day conference sunshineweek.org or www.fsne.org.
Prosecutors dismiss Sunshine,
records charges against hospital
OCALA A hospital indicted on owned facilities, did not concede guilt but
misdemeanor charges for violating will pay $2,000 for investigative costs.
Florida's open government laws during "It's a fairly standard disposition
a CEO search has reached of a county court first-time
an agreement with the State A C offense," said State Attorney
Attorney's Office. A C C E SS Brad King.
In exchange for amending LAW S A grand jury indicted the
its lease to reflect principles hospital in September for
of "operating in the spirit of failing to provide the Ocala
open government," the State Attorney's Star-Banner with a list of CEO candidates
Office dismissed the charges. and holding at least one closed meeting
The hospital, which leases publicly during a two-month period last summer.
sued by school
MIAMI A school board member
dissatisfied with the response to her
public records requests has filed suit
against the superintendent.
Miami-Dade school board member
Marta Perez filed the public records
lawsuit against Superintendent Rudy
Perez alleges that Crew misused his
power and ignored her records requests.
The requests are related to renovation
costs for board members' offices,
AC CESS salaries, and
RECORDS "I do not
the effort required of my staff to gather
and organize the information regarding
job descriptions and cost of all board
office renovations...is an effective use of
their time," Crew wrote in a March 2005
memo, according to The Miami Herald.
Prior to filing the suit, Perez motioned
that the school board ask Crew to
provide the information. The board
voted against Perez's proposal.
Perez wants a judge to order Crew
to fulfill the records requests and define
Crew's powers to set the school board's
Charges dropped against outspoken resident
RIVIERA BEACH A local activist
arrested at a November city council
meeting will not face charges in
connection with the incident.
Riviera Beach City A
Councilwoman Liz Wade had
police remove Fane Lozman MEF
from the meeting during the
public comment portion of
Lozman was commenting on the
arrests of area officials at the time of
his own arrest. Lozman was charged
with disorderly conduct
E SS and resisting arrest without
NGS Lozman also is involved
in litigation against the city
related to its decision to use
eminent domain in a redevelopment
project. In his lawsuit, Lozman alleged
council members violated Florida's
Open Meetings Law by holding a special
meeting to sign an agreement with
developers. The council has since changed
its position on using eminent domain.
The State Attorney's Office dropped
the charges because prosecutors were
not convinced a conviction was possible,
according to The Palm Beach Post.
Newspaper wins retaliation suit against college
KEY WEST Florida Keys
Community College will pay the legal
fees of a newspaper company after the
two parties reached a settlement in a First
Amendment retaliation lawsuit.
Cooke Communications, owner of The
Key West Citizen, filed the suit after the
Trump sues to
PALM BEACH Donald Trump is
suing town officials who cited him for
flying an oversized American flag at his
Palm Beach property. Trump contends
that he has a First Amendment right to
fly the flag over his Mar-a-Lago Club.
MIAMI Miami-Dade police
erased its copy of a security video
showing Atlanta Falcons quarterback
Michael Vick at the airport, after
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
requested the video under Florida's
Public Records Law.
Vick was suspected of hiding
marijuana in a water bottle during
a Jan. 17 visit to the Miami
The Journal-Constitution requested
a copy of the video on Jan. 18.
RECORDS the video
was part of
an ongoing investigation.
After prosecutors announced Jan.
23 there would be no criminal charges
against Vick, the investigating officer
erased the video from a flash drive.
A police spokesman said
the newspaper would have to
request a copy of the video from
the Transportation Security
The copy of the video erased by
the police was obtained from a TSA
college's president wrote in a letter to the
company that he was ending any business
with the company. College President
Bill Seeker said the move was a result
of Citizen articles that he alleged were
unbalanced and unfair to the college.
Cooke Communications filed suit,
alleging its constitutional right to publish
without retribution from a government
agency was violated. Seeker then sent
another letter agreeing to resume business
with the company.
The college did not admit wrongdoing
but did agree to pay $9,000 in attorney fees.
keep oversized American flag
Town officials cited Trump because Trump's multi-million dollar lawsuit says
his 15-by-25-foot flag atop an 80-foot a smaller flag would "look silly" in light
pole violated zoning codes. Codes do of the property's "massive size." If Trump
not permit flagpoles taller than 42 feet. wins the lawsuit, money damages will be
Trump says the ordinances are selectively donated to Iraq war veterans, according to
enforced. the suit.
ACCESS MEETINGS CONTINUED
Judge denies PCOC appeal
BARTOW- A circuit judge denied The members have the option of
the appeal of Polk County Opportunity appealing to the 2nd District Court of Appeal
Council board members who challenged in Lakeland.
their non-criminal infraction convictions PCOC board members contended that
for violating the Sunshine Law. they were not subject to the Open Meetings
Chief Circuit Judge Ron Herring Law when they took a break from a public
upheld the convictions handed down by meeting to discuss a personnel matter in
County Judge Anne Kaylor. private.
The board members had been ordered But Herring disagreed. "Where a
to each pay a $250 fine and $28.60 in private company steps into the shoes
court costs. Board member Dennis of a government agency and assumes
Goosby paid the cost for all the members. government functions, it is subject to the
"I'm of the opinion that I wish to Sunshine Law," Herring wrote in his order.
appeal it all the way up," Goosby said, The PCOC assists poor residents through
according to The Ledger (Lakeland). federal and state programs.
Crist's first orders of business:
open government, easy reading
TALLAHASSEE Florida Gov.
Charlie Crist's first executive order
established the Office of Open
Government and a "Plain Language
Initiative" aimed at making government
publications and announcements easier to
The order includes a provision to
implement a code of ethics for the
governor's office and heads of state
executive agencies. This same provision
also calls for the training of agency
employees on topics including ethics,
public records, open meetings and
The functions of Crist's newly created
Office of Open Government will be "to
assure full and expeditious compliance
with" the state's open government laws
and to provide training on government
The "Plain Language Initiative" will
begin with each state agency submitting
an implementation plan. Requirements for
future publications include clear language
for a broad audience; logically presented,
relevant information; "short sentences
written in the active voice;" and reader-
friendly design elements, such as the use of
2 The Brechner Report u March 2007
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
WASHINGTON D.C. The Federal
Bureau of Investigation has ended
its effort to access the files of late
investigative reporter Jack Anderson.
Anderson's family fought the FBI's push
to examine his confidential papers.
The FBI sought information related
to a case involving the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee. Two
former lobbyists have been charged
with receiving classified documents in
violation of the Espionage Act.
The FBI thought some of Anderson's
papers may contain classified
The documents are housed at George
Washington University. Biographer
and GWU journalism professor Mark
Feldstein told the FBI there were no
classified documents in the hundreds of
boxes of Anderson's files.
The FBI has indicated it has dropped
its request to review the files.
YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, PO Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gamesville, FL 32611-8400
http //www brechner org
e-mail brechnerreport@jou ufl edu
Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Exec. Director/Exec. Editor
Christina Locke, Editor
Alana Kolifrath, Production Coordinator
Kimberly Lopez, Production Assistant
The BrechnerReport is published 12 times a
year under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The Brechner Report is ajoint 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 Soci-
ety of Newspaper Editors and the Joseph L Brechner
Washington Post drops request
for Secret Service visitor logs
WASHINGTON D.C. The official residence were private because
Washington Post has withdrawn its to release them would interfere with his
lawsuit to obtain Secret Service visitor ability to effectively do his job.
logs. The newspaper demanded the A May 2006 memorandum declaring
logs just prior to the November election, that logs of visitors to the White House
seeking information about visitors to complex are exempt from disclosure
Vice President Dick Cheney and his was signed by the White House and the
senior staff over the previous two years. Secret Service. The memo designated
A district court judge, Ricardo these logs as presidential records, not
Urbina, ordered the Secret Service to subject to disclosure under the Freedom
immediately comply with The Post's of Information Act.
request. But days before the Nov. 7 The Post cited its failure to obtain
election, the D.C. Circuit Court of the information prior to the election
Appeals blocked Urbina's order, and the existence of similar lawsuits as
Cheney maintained the records of reasons for withdrawing its legal action,
visitors to the White House and his according to The New York Sun.
Horse clinic sues state for libel
WELLINGTON An equine located adjacent to the Palm Beach Equine
veterinary clinic has filed a defamation Sports Complex, which was under state-
suit against the Florida Department of ordered quarantine. The clinic and sports
Agriculture. The suit stems from an complex operate independently.
outbreak of equine herpes virus that is A Department of Agriculture spokesman
blamed for the death of six horses, blamed the incident on faulty reporting by
The Palm Beach Equine ---- members of the press. Mark
Clinic alleges the state L IB E L Fagan said his office told the
wrongfully reported that the media to contact individual
clinic's facilities were under facilities in the area because the
quarantine and had the contagious virus, entire site may not be under quarantine.
resulting in inaccurate press coverage. "Reporters have the responsibility to dig
The clinic says its revenues have dropped deeper, and if that means contacting each of
since the reports. the 10 facilities, that means contacting each
The Palm Beach Equine Clinic is of the 10 facilities," Fagan said.
Judge throws out anthrax suit
ALEXANDRIA, Va. A former
Army scientist's libel suit against The
New York Times has been dismissed
by a federal judge. Times columnist
Nicholas D. Kristof did not act with
malice, reminding readers to assume
scientist Steven Hatfill's innocence
and presenting the favorable views of
Hatfill's loved ones, U.S. District Judge
Claude Hilton wrote in his opinion.
The dismissal occurred a week after
Times lawyers argued that Hatfill was
a public figure for the purposes of his
libel suit. Hatfill alleged that a series of
columns in The Times falsely implied
that he was involved in the 2001 anthrax
Attorneys for the newspaper argued that
years before the attacks, Hatfill had injected
himself into the national discussion of
bioterrorism. The attorneys said that Hatfill
had been quoted as an expert by the media
and posed for a magazine photo.
Hatfill's attorneys contended that they
could overcome a public figure designation
because of major flaws in reporting.
This is the second time Hilton has
dismissed the case. In 2004, he dismissed
Hatfill's suit after ruling that the columns
accurately reported that the FBI considered
Hatfill a "person of interest" in the case.
Hatfill appealed the first dismissal to the 4th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond,
which sided in his favor.
The Brechner Report U March 2007
Transparency advocates must resort to secrecy
The degree of government transparency in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Time
United States is due in no small part to the efforts Inc. discussed the realities of reporting in an era of
of the American press. The media lobbied for open increased scrutiny from prosecutors.
government laws and advocated for the public's "right to Barstow has witnessed firsthand the dangers of
know." protecting confidential sources. His former colleague,
The press uses open government laws to hold public Judith Miller, spent 85 days injail after she refused
officials accountable and uncover stories of corruption. to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of
Government transparency is an essential tool for the Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent.
press to serve in its "watchdog" capacity. hr Locke Miller eventually received permission from her
In order to comply with open government laws, ina source, vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby,
officials must retain documents, record meetings, and to testify before the grand jury. Libby was indicted on
take a variety of other measures so as not to sidestep these laws. charges of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leak of
The failure to do so could result in criminal charges, removal Plame's identity.
from office or other penalties. Tenjournalists testified at Libby's trial, including Miller,
The For the modem reporter, Time reporter Matthew Cooper, NBC's Tim Russert and The
B k P imitating the work habits of Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward.
SBack P a e government officials could The impact of the leak investigation on the willingness of
S have disastrous consequences. sources to come forward may never be known. Some fear that
By Christina Locke As a result of recent high the investigation and Libby trial could encourage prosecutors
profile prosecutions of journalists who refuse to reveal elsewhere to subpoena reporters in criminal investigations. In
confidential sources, today's journalists have resorted to a addition to potential criminal contempt liability for journalists,
variety of covert tactics in order to avoid being hauled in front news organizations can also be subject to substantial fines each
of a grand jury. day information continues to be withheld.
Journalists working with confidential sources are careful In the meantime, journalists have resorted to tactics that
to avoid e-mails, leaving phone messages or using credit would be criminal if employed by government officials.
cards. They are apt to purchase a disposable cell phone for The result is an obvious contradiction between the media's
communication with confidential sources and then discard the expectations of government transparency and press opacity.
phone. To avoid phone records, switchboard systems can be With subpoenas and jail time a real possibility, reporters
used instead of direct calls. Pages of notes can be too much of a must balance the interests of confidential sources, corporate
liability and are quickly discarded, employers, editors, and their own self-protection. Despite the
During a reporter's initial meeting with a confidential demands, journalists are still committed to getting the next big
source, a carefully worded "Miranda warning" of sorts "Your story.
name won't appear in the paper" is sometimes used to soothe "It's always a cat and mouse game, but you have to keep
concerns but doesn't necessarily offer complete confidentiality, playing it," Barstow said.
"It doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel good to have to act like
a drug dealer," said David Barstow, a reporter for The New York
Times. Christina Locke is editor ofThe Brechner Report. Locke
Barstow made the remark during a panel on protection is a J.D./M.A. student at the University ofFlorida. She has
from subpoenas at an American Bar Association media law previously worked as a reporter at the Okeechobee News and as
conference in Key Largo. Reporters and attorneys from The a copy editor at The Gainesville Sun