Title: Brechner report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00098
 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 2008
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090012
Volume ID: VID00098
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 32, Number 2 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
February 2008

Open Government Act establishes new FOIA services

WASHINGTON, D.C. President
Bush signed the Honest Leadership and
Open Government Act of 2007, which
is aimed at giving the public and the
media greater access to information
about government activities, specifically
lobbying efforts.
"The essence of successful ethics
reform is not laws and restrictions, but
full disclosure. The legislation includes
minimal improvements in the area
of disclosure, both for lobbying and
earmarks. But there is still more to be
done and I will work with the Congress
to improve upon this legislation,"

President Bush said in a press release.
The new law reinforces the 40-year-
old Freedom of Information Act and
represents the first significant updates to
FOIA in over a decade.
The Act sets timelines for responses
to requests, establishes a tracking system
with penalties if agencies do not respond,
and creates an Office of Open Government
Services. It also establishes a hot line for
all federal agencies to deal with public
records issues and an ombudsperson as
an alternative to litigation in disclosure
The law is seen as a congressional

rejection of the Bush Administration's
movement to greater secrecy since the
terrorist attacks of 2001, according to The
Associated Press.
The legislation reversed an order by
former Attorney General John Ashcroft,
who, after the 9/11 attacks, instructed
agencies to resist releasing information
if there was uncertainty about the effect
that information might have on national
The new law reinforces the presumption
that government agencies must release
requested information unless there is a
finding that disclosure could do harm.

Federal government owes newspaper for attorney fees

FORT MYERS -The federal
government will pay $105,000 in attorney
fees to The News-Press (Fort Myers)
following the newspaper's successful
lawsuit against the Department of
Homeland Security for the release of
public records.
The News-Press and its sister Gannett
Co. Inc. newspapers, The Pensacola
News Journal and Florida Today, sued
the agency after it refused to release
information about the 1.1 million
recipients of $1.2 billion in disaster aid

after the 2004 Florida hurricane season, culpability in this case. We view this as
The Federal Emergency Management further evidence that we did the correct
Agency, a branch of Homeland Security, thing fight for the public's right to know,"
distributed the disaster aid but refused said Kate Marymont, executive editor of
to release recipients' The News-Press.
names and addresses. A C C E S S "This is an outstanding result
Under FOIA, -for the newspaper. After years of
winning a release of RECORDS withholding records, the government
the records allowed has agreed to pay six figures. The
the plaintiffs to return to court to request amount speaks for itself. It's a victory for
attorney fees from the government agency. the First Amendment," said lead attorney
"It is gratifying that the government Charles Tobin of the firm Holland and
finally recognizes some degree of Knight, according to The News-Press.

Judge rules online used-book purchases confidential

MADISON, WIS. Newly unsealed U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen
court records show federal prosecutors Crocker ruled the customers have a First
withdrew a subpoena that sought the Amendment right to keep their reading
identities of thousands of people who habits from the government.
bought used books through "The [subpoena's]
online retailer Amazon.com Inc. FIR ST chilling effect on
Federal prosecutors issued expressive e-commerce
the subpoena in 2006 as part of AMENDMENT would frost keyboards
a grand jury investigation into across America. Well-
former Madison official, Robert D'Angelo, founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian
who was a frequent seller of used books on federal criminal investigation into the
Amazon.com. Prosecutors hoped to find reading habits of Amazon's customers
potential witnesses in the Amazon records, could frighten countless potential
according to The Associated Press. customers into canceling planned online

book purchases," Crocker wrote in his
Although Crocker said he believed
prosecutors were seeking the information
for a legitimate purpose, he opened the
court documents against their requests
to keep the records sealed. The First
Amendment concerns were justified
and outweighed the subpoena's law
enforcement purpose, Crocker said.
D'Angelo was indicted in October
2007 on fraud, money laundering and tax
evasion charges in connection with a book
business he ran out of his city office.


Councilman charged in e-mail case Farm bill drops

MARCO ISLAND -Marco Island
City Councilman Chuck Kiester has been
accused of violating the Florida Public
Records Law, which prohibits the deletion
of e-mails related to government business.
Kiester was charged with failing to
maintain, preserve or allow inspection of
public records that were generated between
the time he took office in March 2006
until March 2007, according to The Naples
Daily News.
The charges arose from a complaint
made by a Marco resident in March 2007
after Kiester failed to respond to a public

KISSIMMEE The Department of
Children & Families proposed a plan to
the Commission on Open Government
advocating more access for foster
children to their personal histories.
The plan would allow foster children
to more easily access information from
their foster histories, including previous
home addresses, birth and health records.
Currently, such records are difficult to
access by foster parents and children.
Records requests are often denied in
order to protect children from painful
personal histories and public records
laws that are murky, said Andrea Moore,
executive director of the non-profit

records request for e-mails relating to
city business and acknowledged that
he regularly deleted e-mails about city
business from his home e-mail account.
"Based on our review we feel this is
the appropriate charge based on the facts
and the law," local State Attorney's Office
spokeswoman Samantha Syoen told The
Naples Daily News.
The charges against Kiester are for
a noncriminal violation of the public
records law. He could face a maximum
$500 fine as a result of the charges but not
suspension or removal from office.

advocacy group Florida's Children
First, according to the Vero Beach Press
But these obstacles may discourage
potential foster parents.
"[I]t will not only help out the kids,
which is primarily where our mission
is, but it will also help us attract and not
discourage people from becoming foster
parents," DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth
told the Press Journal.
The Commission on Open
Government will review the proposal
and send its recommendations to the
governor and the Florida Legislature for

penalty, passes
WASHINGTON, D.C. Opposition
from media helped to thwart efforts in
the U.S. Senate to pass a version of the
2007 Farm Bill that included penalties
for disclosure of information about
contaminated meat products in the U.S.
food supply.
The original language of the bill
exempted disclosure of information from
the National Animal Identification Service
(NAIS), a move that would violate the
Open Government Act, according to the
Society of Professional Journalists.
"It's essential that citizens be
made aware of dangers in their own
communities, including livestock that
can cause serious illness and death. To
criminalize the disclosure of cow directory
information is shameful. It's essential that
the public is able to trust its government,
and it's essential we can trust what we eat,"
said David Cuillier, chairman of the SPJ
Freedom of Information committee, in an
SPJ news release.
If the original bill had passed, it
would have allowed the U.S. Secretary
of Agriculture to decide if and when to
disclose NAIS information and to whom,
including foreign governments, but it
would have forbidden the Secretary from
disclosing information to the general

Governor establishes Bill of Rights and Web initiatives

TALLAHASSEE Gov. Charlie Crist
established two new initiatives to improve
public access to government records.
The governor established an Open
Government Bill of Rights in an executive
order, directing state agencies to treat
citizens with courtesy and respect when
responding to records requests.
Following a recommendation from the
Commission on Open Government, the
executive order also directs agencies to
improve the public's access to important
information online, including the request-
making process, organizational charts,
budget data and contracts with vendors and
service providers.
The order also bars agencies from
demanding that record requests be in
"These initiatives are just one more
way we are working to create a more open
government for the people of Florida, our
boss. By creating a culture that fosters

2 The Brechner Report ] February 2007

public trust and confidence, we become
a government truly in the sunshine,"
Gov. Crist said in a press release.
The Open Government Bill of Rights
also requires officials to respond to records
requests promptly and bars them from
charging more than the law allows for
The Internet initiative offers direct links
from agency home pages to a Web site that
provides information on open government
laws and how to make records requests.
State agency open government links are
available at http://www.flgov.com/og_
In addition to the Open Government
Bill of Rights, Gov. Crist also established
a new partnership between the state of
Florida and Google Inc., enabling citizens
to use search engines such as Google to
locate government programs and services.
"This public-private partnership is an
innovative way to improve the accessibility

of state information for all Floridians. By
empowering Floridians with the tools
they need for easier access to state agency
Web sites, we are allowing them to truly
take ownership of state government," said
Gov. Crist in a press release.
Florida joins five other states in its
partnership with Google to improve
accessibility of its online services.
The Web site improvements will be
implemented at no cost to Floridians.
"Every day, millions of people turn to
search engines to find the authoritative
and trustworthy information provided by
their government, and it is our mission to
help them connect with this content," said
Elliot Schrage, vice president of global
communications and public affairs at
Information on how a government
agency can make it easier to search for
hard-to-find public information is available
at http://www.google.com/publicsector.

Committee reviews plan to give foster

children access to personal records


Judge rules

White House

logs public
WASHINGTON, D.C. -A federal
judge ruled that White House visitor
logs are public records, rejecting the
Bush Administration's efforts to avoid
release of records that show visits by
prominent religious conservatives,
according to The Associated Press.
The Secret Service, which is subject
to the Freedom of Information Act, is
responsible for generating the logs that
record who visits the White House. But
the Bush Administration ordered that
it would maintain custody of the logs,
treating them as presidential records,
which are not public.
White House and Justice Department
spokesmen said lawyers were reviewing
the decision. The Bush Administration
is expected to appeal the ruling.
In a separate but related case, a
watchdog group sought to declare
illegal the Bush Administration's policy
under which the Secret Service destroys
its own copies of the visitor logs once
the original records are turned over to
the White House.
The Bush Administration sought
to have this case moved to a judge
appointed by President Bush. But the
lawsuit, which will be consolidated
with a similar case, will be reviewed
by Judge Lamberth, who ordered the
White House logs public.

Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, PO Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8400
http //www brechner org
e-mail brechnerreport@jou ufl edu
Sandra F Chance, J.D., Exec. Director/Exec. Editor
Ana-Klara Hering, Editor
Alana Kolifrath, Production Coordinator
Danielle Navarrete, Production Assistant

The Brechner Report is published 12 times a
year under the auspices of the University of Florida
Foundation The BrechnerReport 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

Representative charged for records

violation, pending investigation

PUNTA GORDA Rep. Paige The acc
Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, was accused of of Barry M
violating state election and open records resigned in
laws in a formal complaint filed with investigation
House Speaker Marco Rubio. the state's I
The complaint against Kreegel was filed constituent
by Lehigh resident Robert J. Anderson. research th(
Kreegel was accused of violating the GOP oppor
law by instructing his staff to spread House R
negative information about his opponent, David Rive
as well as abusing his public position in the complain
violation of House rules, according to the forward it t
St. Petersburg Times. a full invest

Judge orders gag in m
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY A gag weapon ha(
order will prohibit the four men accused of "And it'
killing Washington Redskins safety Sean mother sen
Taylor from speaking to the media about a little paper
specifics in the case or their statements to said, accord
police. Although
Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy also attorneys, c
ordered the attorneys for the defendants, Sharpstein
prosecutors, police, Taylor's family and his The Herala
former attorney, Richard Sharpstein, not to opposed th
talk to the media.
Murphy said he issued COURT S
the order out of concern
that publicity would
jeopardize the defendants' right to a fair drastic step
trial, according to The Miami Herald. who repres
The judge referred specifically to a Attorne
Herald story, in which counsel for one of opposed re
the defendants discussed where the murder what was a

isations stem from actions
illman, a Kreegel aide who
November 2007 after an internal
n found that he had violated
publicc Records Law, lied to a
and used state computers to
Background of Kreegel's 2008
lent Keith Richter.
.ules Committee Chairman
ra, R-Miami, will review
nt and determine whether to
o a special panel of members for

murder trial
d been allegedly discarded.
s not just Dade County. My
t me a clip about this case from
;r in North Carolina," Murphy
ding to The Herald.
h the prosecutors, defense
defendants' families, and
all agreed to the gag order,
I, CNN and WPLG/Channel 10
e order.
"It's a big step for the
court to tell people they
can't speak to anyone
about a case. It's a pretty
," said attorney Scott Ponce,
ented The Herald and CNN.
ys for the media specifically
actions from testimony beyond
allowed by law.

of Palm Beach County School Board
employees enrolled in the deferred
retirement option program (DROP) are
public records, according to a circuit
In a suit filed by The Palm Beach
Post against the Palm Beach County
School Board, The Post alleged that the
district illegally withheld a wide variety
of information, including the names
of DROP participants, retirement-age
workers who are allowed to continue
working for up to five years.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Maass ruled
in favor of The Post, rejecting the school
district's argument that school board

employees who have enrolled in DROP
are retired even though they continue to
work for the school district.
The names of retired school board
employees enrolled in the program are
Following the judge's ruling, district
officials have agreed to provide many of
the requested records, but other issues
raised in the suit remain unresolved.
A hearing is pending to review the
district's interpretation of a 10-day notice
requirement for reporters who want to
review employees' personnel files and
whether special service fees that have
reached into the tens of thousands of
dollars have been unreasonable.
The Brechner Report I February 2007

Judge rules school district must

release retirement program records


University of Florida
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Welmer Hall, P.O. Box 118400
Gainesville, FL 32611
February 2008

Non-Profit Organization
Permit No. 94
Gainesville, FL


Committee on Access to (
Privacy is under attack in a world where the most
sensitive information is maintained on electronic
databases. The issue of privacy is particularly acute in the
context of court records, where citizens are compelled
to include confidential information about their personal
lives, health, finances and families. A certain "practical
obscurity" may have hidden this information when court
records were only available at the courthouse. However,
with the move towards e-filing of court documents, and Tim
the creation of electronic archives, citizens and courts are McLt
confronted with the question of how to balance the right
to privacy with the right of access to public records.
Florida is famous for its Sunshine Law, requiring public
access to all official meetings and all public records. Since
The 1992, this policy of openness
has been enshrined in the
B ack P age Florida Constitution, affirming
its importance. However, the
By Timothy McLendon Constitution also allows the
Legislature to create limited
exemptions to the public records requirement. By court rule, these
exemptions also apply to court records.
Aware of the problem, the Florida Supreme Court has created
a series of advisory committees to explore the issue. The first,
the Committee on Privacy and Court Records, which made its
report in 2005, found that the Florida Constitution probably does
not require electronic access to court records, but recommended
that most court records ultimately be made available online. To
facilitate this goal, the Supreme Court established a successor
in 2006, the Committee on Access to Court Records. This
committee, which will make its final report to the Court in June
2008, is currently considering the following items:
1) Manatee County Pilot Project. Acting on a
recommendation by the Committee on Privacy and Court Records,
a pilot project was established in Manatee County to make
court records available online. Working with the clerk of the
court and the Florida Courts Technology Commission, the pilot
project is demonstrating technological devices to redact sensitive
information from court records. The goal of the second year will
be to make access to Manatee County court files available online.
2) Amendment to Court Rules. To facilitate future electronic

Court Records seeks input
access, there will need to be amendments to rules of
court. A working group of the Committee has proposed
amendments to the rules of judicial administration that
will allow initial screening of documents by the clerks
to identify certain key exemptions from public records.
Making use of an inventory of the 1000-odd exemptions
compiled by a UF College of Law team, the Committee
has identified certain records which are especially sensitive
othy and also readily identifiable by reviewing clerks. However,
endon filers will be required to identify most confidential or
exempt information contained in documents they submit
to a court. The proposed amendment offers a mechanism for
parties or third persons to challenge confidentiality requests using
expedited court review. Importantly, the dockets describing cases
and the documents filed will remain open to the public.
3) Education of Court Users and Elimination of
Unnecessary Filings. Often the sensitive information contained
in court records is extraneous to the matter at hand, or is submitted
before it is required. A working group is exploring ways to reduce
unnecessary filing of sensitive information. This project involved
an analysis of all existing court rules. One way to reduce the
amount of confidential data contained in court filings is by creation
of a special form to contain most sensitive information such as
social security numbers, financial data, etc. Official forms will
also need to be changed, both to allow users to identify whether
the filing contains confidential information, and to remove
unnecessary requests for this data.
The Florida Supreme Court has embraced the concept of
electronic filing of, and thus electronic access to, court records.
This poses a challenge to the court system in how to balance the
privacy concerns of those involved in the court system with the
right of access to public records. The Committee, and ultimately
the Supreme Court, seeks the involvement and input of all
Floridians interested in this issue, whether they be clerks of court,
members of the bar, the judiciary, or the general public on whose
behalf the court system is supposed to work.
Timothy McLendon, a staff attorney at the Center for
Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida Levin
College ofLaw, is a member of the Committee on Access to Court
Records. Information is available online at http: /wwwflcourts.

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