Brechner report
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00144
 Material Information
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: December 2011
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UF00090012:00144


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BRECHNERREPORTTHE Volume 35, Number 12 A monthly report of mass media law in Florida Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information College of Journalism and Communications University of Florida December 2011 COURTS TALLAHASSEE Records showing the salaries of 52,000 state employees from Floridas 11 public universities have been posted on Florida Gov. Rick Scotts website, com. The records, which account for $2.66 billion and range from $30,000 to $1.4 million, show only the base rates and the state funds that pay those rates. Faculty leaders questioned Scotts motive for posting the salaries, but a is part of the governors effort to enhance state government transparency, according to The Miami Herald. Salaries of state employees are public record. The push may be part of a campaign to create private-sector jobs and promote change in higher education, including placing greater emphasis on STEM subjectsscience, technology, engineering and math, The Herald reported. at the 11 universities asking for a wide range of information, including how many highest-paid faculty members. The data is from May and is expected to be updated in November. Source: The Miami Herald ACCESS MEETINGS Survey: Fla. gets B in transparency ARLINGTON, Va. Florida scores a B in transparency, according to a study recently Review, an organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. Sunshine Review analyzes state and local government websites using a 10-point transparency checklist to determine whether state and local government websites are making information related to budgets, laws and taxes, among other criteria, available to citizens on their websites. MyFlorida.com portal was praised for providing a current state budget along with the governors budget it was criticized for not providing information on state-paid lobbying, agency lobbying contracts or comprehensive information for making public records requests. Source: The Miami Herald Governor posts faculty salaries TALLAHASSEE Legislation recently introduced in both houses of the Florida Legislature would protect the right of Florida citizens to speak at public meetings. The proposed law, which grants members of the public a reasonable action is taken, comes in the wake of a 2010 decision by the Florida Supreme Courtin letting stand an appeals court rulingthat citizens have a right to be seen but not necessarily to be heard. The decision angered open government advocates, who said that it essentially authority to silence citizens at public meetings. Legal experts say that right is not explicitly protected by law. Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) in the last years legislative session, but it died in committee. Legislation has since been reintroduced in both houses of the Legislature, and would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly violate the law. The bills came just before oral arguments were heard before the 5th District Court of Appeal, in Daytona, in which residents of St. Johns River Water action that prevented them from speaking at a public hearing about a water treatment plant on the St. Johns River. Source: Tallahassee Democrat, Orlando Sentinel Judge unveils juror names ORLANDO A judge has released the names of the 12 jurors and three alternates in the Casey Anthony murder trial after a three-month cooling off period, during which the names of the jurors were withheld. Although jurors names are usually released immediately after a verdict is rendered in Florida, Judge Belvin Perry ordered the names to remain private to protect their safety and well-being. News organizations attempted to contact the jurors the day the names were released, but none of those efforts proved successful. All 12 of the jurors were selected from Pinellas County due to concerns of pretrial publicity in Orlando. In July, the panel of jurors found Casey in the death of 2-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony. Source: Orlando Sentinel RECORDS ACCESS Legislation seeks to protect right to speak


MIAMI-DADE A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ordered more than 30 state child welfare workers to appear before her privately to sign statements swearing they did not leak information about a controversial child custody hearing to The Miami Herald Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria presiding over child welfare cases in the countys Childrens Courthouse, compelled 33 Department of Child and Families (DCF) employees to appear before her after details about the custody case, which had been closed, 2 The Brechner Report December 2011 COURTS CONTINUED Mayor: Reporters must register as lobbyists Two more join counties upping fees BROWARD COUNTY Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan pledged that he would not speak with journalists unless they register as lobbyists, according to a new code of ethics recently enacted in Broward County. Although the new ethics code does not go into effect until Jan. the names of any lobbyists with whom they meet, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported. According communication that seeks or persuade covered individuals to support or oppose an item. Though reporters do not necessarily consider what they do is lobbying, their work is provided to editors who use their research to write editorials, Kaplan wrote in an email to a South Florida SunSentinel reporter. Although Chief Appellate Counsel for Broward County Andrew Meyers said it is clear reporters are not covered by to clarify it, according to The Reporters Committee. Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, RCFP.com SANTA ROSA COUNTY Records related to a wide-ranging grand jury organization to request the records $11,658.90, according to policy adopted by the County Commission during its Sept. 22 meeting. That amount relates to the time it took the county attorneys staff to review 220,369 emails and other documents HALLANDALE BEACH An audit of the Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) showed that the city has failed to properly track city land acquisitions, developer agreements and loans to businesses. Three-fourths of the city falls within the CRA district, which collects property taxes for property acquisitions and to ordered the audit in August 2010 after suspecting that there were problems with for 30 properties owned by the agency, that had been sold, according to a draft of the audit. The audit also showed that to the agencys business and commercial loan program, which handed out $1.5 million in assistance as of June 2010. Alvin Jackson Jr., CRA director for Hallandale Beach, acknowledged that he he became head of the agency in January 2010, but said there was not a system in place and no one was assigned to the tasks of making sure the records were complete. Source: Broward Bulldog were leaked to the newspaper. No public notice was given before the workers were required to appear to sign a Sampedro-Iglesia closed the one-onone meetings where she gathered the signatures after learning that reporters from The Herald wanted to attend. Only one of the 33 employees refused from the courthouse until the child custody case was resolved. She resigned from her position at DCF several days later. The hearing involved the custody Grand jury probe nets $11K bill as well as other copying costs, the Pensacola New-Journal reported. County they were subpoenaed as part of a grand jury investigation into various county business deals, including land purchases, dealings with numerous develops, travel and the ambulance service contract. Source: Pensacola New-Journal GAINESVILLE Changes made to public records policies in Cape Coral and Santa Rosa County could lead to increased fees for citizens who want access to city documents. Under new policies enacted in each of the districts, citizens requesting public records will have to pay the hourly salary and the request takes longer than a In Santa Rosa, that time is 30 minutes. In Cape Coral, fees may be assessed after 15 minutes. These changes represent a continuing trend among local governments to amend fee policies. Source: Pensacola NewsJournal, Cape Coral Daily Breeze FIRST AMENDMENT of Victor Barahona, 11, whose foster parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, murder in the death of his twin sister, Nubia. Sampedro-Iglesia called the one-onone meetings after an article published by The Herald in August contained details about the proceeding. The Herald has not contested Sampedro-Iglesias decision to close the child-custody proceedings, portions of which can be closed under state child Source: The Miami Herald, RCFP.com RECORDS ACCESS


SAO investigates tourism board Fla. judge reopens landmark Medicare privacy case FREEDOM OF INFORMATION 3 The Brechner Report December 2011 Brechner Center for Freedom of Information 3208 Weimer Hall, P.O. Box 118400 College of Journalism and Communications University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8400 http://www.brechner.org Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Exec. Director/Exec. Editor Kara Carnley Murrhee, Editor Alana Kolifrath, Production Coordinator Emily Miller, Production Assistant 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. TACOMA, Wash. A federal judge in Washington lifted an order preventing the release of the identities of more than 137,000 people who signed a 2009 petition against a domestic partners. In his Oct. 17 order, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle found that Protect Marriage Washington, the organization seeking to keep the names and addresses of Referendum 71 petition signers private, had not threats, harassment, or reprisals to prevent release of the documents. The decision follows the U.S. Supreme Courts 2010 decision in Doe v. Reed in which the Court rejected the argument that allowing any disclosure of referendum petitions under the state public records act violated individuals First Amendment rights. In his order, Judge Settle said that courts are generally hesitant to deny disclosure, especially where the group requesting the exemption has not demonstrated its minor status. Source: RCFP.com JACKSONVILLE A federal judge has reopened a 32-year-old case, which barred government access to names and incomes of Medicare providers contained in medical records. Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal and Real Time Medical Motion to Intervene, after the Department of Health denied Dow Jones request to access a database containing Medicare billing and reimbursement information. The Department of Health barred access based on a 1979 decision, in which the Florida and American Medical Associations successfully convinced the court that disclosure of such information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. More than 30 years later, Dow Jones and Real Time brought suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act, seeking to have the injunction reversed. They claimed that the injunction interfered with their legitimate business practices. On Sept. 26, Florida District Judge Marcia Morales Howard found that Dow Jones and Real Times Motion to Intervene was timely and raised important questions regarding the applicability of FOIA and the Privacy Act in keeping the names private. Indeed, there appear to be no circumstances weighing against intervention, Howard wrote in her order. Dow Jones and Real Time will have to decision is reversed. Source: Courthouse News ESCAMBIA COUNTY The investigation to determine whether the Escambia County Tourist Development Council (TDC) violated Floridas Sunshine Law. Allegations arose after details surfaced regarding the councils plan to restructure the tourism business by moving tourism promotions from under the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce to create its own separate board, the Pensacola NewsJournal reported. The restructuring, which has been spearheaded by the Tourism Stakeholder Group, would have an effect on how $4 million of taxpayer money is allocated each year. The group has been accused of meeting privately and with county commissioners to discuss concerns. Emails to and from the TDCs former vice president of tourism, who resigned in September, have been subpoenaed, the News-Journal reported. The law prohibits board members from discussing matters in private that are reasonably likely to come before the public board, said Barbara Petersen, of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. Source: Pensacola New-Journal DUNEDIN Four members of the Pinellas County City Commission have been accused of repeatedly violating Floridas Government-in-the-Sunshine law for meeting one-on-one with city staffers. Julie Scales, the city commission and a former Pinellas County government attorney, says she disagrees with a 30-year-old Florida attorney generals opinion that city staffers can be briefed on agenda items before meetings, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Scales says that the commissioners practice of meeting one-on-one has led city staffers to tailor their recommendations, rather than relying on their own expert opinions and research. She also says that she believes the practice has led to backroom discussions, decisionmaking and votes on multimillion-dollar projects and other issues before they have been discussed publicly. The other members of the commission, however, say that no open government laws have been broken. Source: St. Petersburg Times ACCESS MEETINGS Judge lifts order protecting petition signers


Kristen Rasmussen What do a Dallas land developer, a Baltimore city have in common? Besides their involvement in matters SLAPPed the people who spoke out in opposition. Short for strategic lawsuits against public participation, SLAPPs have become an all-too-common tool for intimidating and silencing critics of individuals and businesses. The hallmark of SLAPP suits is their success, not on their legal merits, but rather in removing the speaker from the public forum, thereby chilling important public discussion and debate. These suits, frequently disguised as defamation claims, are often based on media coverage of newsworthy events, statements or other efforts to report on or oppose a building permit or zoning change and statements made before a legislative, executive or judicial proceeding or in connection with an issue under review by a governmental body. To prevent a chilling effect on vital public speech, 31 states, along with the District of Columbia and U.S. territory of causes of action. Under most anti-SLAPP statutes, the plaintiff has the burden of showing a probability that he will prevail or strike a procedure designed to ensure that a plaintiffs constitutional right to petition the court for redress of injury is not infringed. After considering this evidence, the judge determines if the claim has merit or is merely an attempt to intimidate or silence a critic. If the judge deems the claim meritless, he or she may grant the defendants motion to dispose of it. In that case, many of the statutes allow the defendant to collect reasonable attorney fees and court costs from the plaintiff. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a defend the First Amendment rights and freedom of information interests of the news media, recently published a comprehensive survey and evaluation of each jurisdictions protection against SLAPP suits. Those jurisdictions awarded the maximum four stars California, Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington have types of free speech and petition activities that qualify for their protection. Notably, these states protect speech made in any forum, including a website publicly available over the Internet, in connection with any issue of public concern or interest, not just, for example, speech made before a governmental body in connection with an issue under review by that body. These states also provide for the mandatory, not just permissive, award of costs and attorney fees to a prevailing SLAPP defendant. Conversely, lower ratings were assigned to jurisdictions with anti-SLAPP laws that narrowly limit their scope of protected activity, such as Pennsylvania, where the anti-SLAPP statute applies only to individuals directly petitioning the government about environmental issues. Other jurisdictions suffered lower ratings because of additional burdens included in their antiSLAPP laws. Although the scope of protection is broad under Marylands anti-SLAPP statute extending to communications with the public at large regarding any issue of public concern it is a SLAPP suit also mandates that the cause of action be brought burden that paradoxically requires a SLAPP defendant to endure costly discovery in an attempt to ascertain a plaintiffs intent in The dangerous effect is that defendants who likely cannot afford the costs will opt to remain quiet the next time they observe a public wrong, a serious detriment to the important public debate these speakers sought to inform. The Reporters Committees complete anti-SLAPP report is available at http://www.rcfp.org/antislapp. Kristen Rasmussen is the 2011-2012 McCormick Legal Fellow at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. January 2007 December 2011 SLAPPed with a suit, weak laws risk silencing speech Back Page The By Kristen Rasmussen