Title: Brechner report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00012
 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: December 2000
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090012
Volume ID: VID00012
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 12 E A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of I,,r- .. ... i,, U College ofJournalism and Communications U University of Florida
December 2000

Former comptroller violated Sunshine Law

without proper authority from the county
commission and violated the
C E S state's Sunshine laws by
ESS contracting with Unisys
TINGS Leasing Company for what
turned out to be obsolete
computers. In 1994, Flowers was charged
with malfeasance in a four-count indictment.
He plead no contest and resigned from

State director cleared of records violation
Tallahassee The head of the computerized public records relating to a net
state's Fish and Wildlife restriction experiment.
Conservation Commission A C C E S Egbert denied Floyd's
has been cleared of accusations and asked the
allegations of a Public RECORD FDLE to examine the hard
Records Law violation by a -_ drive of his personal
state investigation, computer to verify his
The Florida Department of Law claims.
Enforcement found no evidence to "No evidence or testimony was found to
support allegations made against indicate that Dr. Egbert participated in,
Allan J. Egbert by attorney J. engineered or ordered others to destroy the
Patrick Floyd. information on the... server," according to
He accused Egbert of destroying the FDLE report. (10/7/00)

Records show state attorney's activities

Tampa Following several media
requests, the state attorney's office
has released a computer record list
that shows a recently deceased state
attorney used his office computer to
visit online betting sites.
The list shows that Harry Lee Coe
used his office computer to visit at
least two online gambling sites in
January 2000. But, it is not clear
whether he placed bets or visited the
sites to gather information about
games or races. In televised
interviews, Coe denied using the
Internet to place gambling bets.

On July 12, following the broadcast, Gov.
Jeb Bush had ordered the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement to look into allegations of
illegal loans and alteration of public records by
Coe and his office. The next day, Coe's body
was found with a fatal self-inflicted gunshot
Coe's suicide is being investigated by the
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's office. The
office also is reviewing the public records
alteration charges, but would not speculate on
Coe's visits to gambling sites. "At this point, I
don't know what it shows," said Bemie
McCabe, the investigating state attorney.

Pensacola The Florida
Supreme Court, in an
advisory opinion, ruled that A
an Escambia County $4.8 -LA-
million computer lease MI
purchase deal violated the
state's Sunshine law.
According to the court's
advisory opinion, Escambia County
Comptroller Joe Flowers acted

In 1995, Frankenmuth Mutual
Insurance Company sued the county
for non-payment on the lease deal. In
reviewing the case, the Supreme court
found that Frankenmuth's no
substitution contract clause was
unconstitutional. The court has ordered
that the case be returned to the 11th
Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta for
final resolution. (9/23/00)


Editor wins

Sunshine award

Jacksonville A local editor is the
recipient of the National Sunshine
Award from the Society of Professional
Journalists (SPJ).
Florida Times-Union editorial
writer Joe Adams earned the award for
his book, The Florida Public Records
Handbook, a book designed to promote
open government in Florida (Brechner
Report, March 2000). The handbook
has been recognized by the Society as
the only public records manual of it's
kind in the nation.
"One of the most important
contributions we can make as
journalists is to inform the citizenry
about their rights and to help them
understand their right to know," said Ian
Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information
Committee chairman.
The book, which also includes
details on the state's public records
laws, is published by the First
Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee.



Residents object to Commission's closed door meetings
New Smyrna Beach Following In 1996 and 1998, the city used its Commission approved the settlement
objections by residents over a closed powers of eminent domain to acquire 85 purchase. Following concerns raised
door meeting, the Utilities Commission acres from Samson Land Trust. The group by attorney Jon Kaney, representing
reaffirmed its $7.6 million purchase of sued the city, alleging that the taking and The News-Journal, the County
1,100 acres as part of a court settlement construction of a wastewater treatment agreed to reaffirm its settlement
with a private landowner at a specially plant damaged its marketing ability, decision at a special public meeting.
called public meeting. In a closed door session, the Utility (10/5/00)

Cable company defends council broadcast COURTS

Miami A local cable operator is
refuting claims from community
activists that segments were deleted
from a televised city council meeting.
Residents claim that the city
"doctored" the broadcast of a Sept. 5
council meeting to edit out a private
conference between council members
and the city manager held during a break.
That meeting was not included in the

Tallahassee A judge has dismissed
a libel suit filed by a state official against
the Tallahassee Democrat on the
grounds that the article did not identify
Denise Smith, director of the Florida
State Hospital's finance office, filed suit
against the paper and reporter Bill
Cotterell, alleging that a 1998 article
was libelous.
In a written order, Judge Nikki Clark,
2nd Judicial Circuit, ruled that Smith was
not identified in the article which "was

The Brechner Report m December 2000

meeting's broadcast the following night.
The cable company has a policy to stop
taping during breaks, said an AT&T
Broadband spokesperson. "I'll show
fights, curses, breakouts. If they look
stupid, that's their problem," said Kateva
Reed, AT&T program coordinator. "But
once they break, we break, we're not
going to run five minutes of black," said
Reed. (9/28/00)

State attorney denies review of hospital

Marathon The State Attorney's
office has declined to review a state
representative's request to investigate a
local hospital, finding no basis for a
Sunshine law violation claim.
In a Sept. 18 letter, state
Representative Ken Sorensen requested
that the state attorney review for
potential open meeting violations by the
Lower Florida Keys Health System, Inc.
during negotiations for a 30-year
hospital lease.
Sorensen believes that lease

negotiations were held by a "buffer board"
that met with Health Management
Associates and "kept their meetings
secretive and closed to the public."
But, according to Chief Assistant State
Attorney Jon Ellsworth, the hospital
system had been cleared of any potential
violation in a previous investigation. They
found that the final lease was approved in
the sunshine, following a series of public
meetings and under close scrutiny by the
state's Attorney General's office.

not of and concerning Smith."
Additionally, Clark ruled that as a
public official, Smith would be required
to prove actual malice, and that since the
article was not falsely published, there
was no cause of action. "Dismissal with
prejudice is appropriate because of the
chilling effect these types of cases have
on freedom of speech and freedom of the
press," wrote Clark.
Smith plans to appeal the ruling,
according to Michael Glazer, an attorney
representing the newspaper. (10/23/00)

Tire safety

subject of suit
West Palm Beach Lawyers
representing a major tire
manufacturer have agreed to a partial
disclosure of company records in a
personal injury suit, but opposing
counsel is asking for a complete and
open review. Jeff Liggio, who
represents the families of two
women who died in a van accident,
wants to open the records for review
with other attorneys who may have
similar cases.
Attorney Martin Reed,
I~r4Es ti he Palm Beach Post,
is requesting that Judge Catherine
Brunson open the records, claiming
that under state law, the courts
cannot withhold information about
safety hazards. "We are arguing that
the effect of the order is to conceal
from the public a public hazard and
information that would be of use to
the public," said Reed.
The company has agreed to allow
the family's attorneys to review 79
boxes and 103 rolls of microfilm
which contain complaints filed by
buyers of Uniroyal light truck tires
between 1983 and 1989. (9/29/00)


Copies of case opinions, attorney
general opinions, or legislation re-
ported in any issue as on file may be
obtained upon request from the
Brechner Center for Freedom ofln-
formation, College ofJournalism and
Communications, 3208 Weimer Hall,
University ofFlorida, Gainesville, FL
32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.


Judge dismisses suit against Democrat



Pres. Clinton vetoes official secret act
Washington, D.C. One of activities that are at the heart of a
Washington's best-kept secrets is no democracy."
more. President Clinton vetoed an Five of the nation's largest news
official Secrets Act passed by Congress organizations CNN, The Washington
in November. Post, The New York Times, the
The bill would have criminalized the Newspaper Association of America and
leaking of government secrets. In vetoing the Radio Television News Directors
the bill, the President said that the Association, had asked President Clinton
legislation might "chill legitimate to veto the bill. (11/6-10/00)


Reporter must testify, rules judge
New Port Richey A judge's ruling But on Oct. 13, Robinson plead to
compelling a reporter to testify about a murder in the first degree, thus making
jailhouse interview became a moot point Lush's testimony a moot point.
after the suspect plead guilty in the slaying "Displaying the better part of valor, Mr.
of Larry Pollack. Robinson plead to the lesser degree,"
On Oct. 12, Judge Craig C. Villanti said Allison Steele, an attorney
ordered Tamara Lush, a reporter with the representing the newspaper.
St. Petersburg Times to testify to her Steele finds the judge's ruling
jailhouse interview with Robbie troubling. "It signals that conducting
Robinson in May. jailhouse interviews possibly invites
State prosecutors argued that subpoenas," said Steele. "Even if the
Robinson provided Lush with details that interview occurs after the fact, courts
could have bolstered the state's efforts seem inclined to call a reporter to
for a death sentence, testify." (10/12-11/27/00)


St. Petersburg Times refiles legal suit

Inverness The St. Petersburg
Times has refiled its suit against Citrus
County, alleging that they did not follow
proper bidding procedures when it
awarded a legal advertising contract to a
competing publication.
The paper's original suit was
dismissed in September. In its amended
complaint, the paper alleges county
officials destroyed public records kept

during a meeting, then improperly
negotiated a contract with the Citrus
County Chronicle. The complaint asks
the judge to void the current contract and
to reopen the bid process.
The county's attorney called the
paper's allegations "complete fiction."
"There is no fact or testimony to support
this complaint, to my knowledge," said
Larry Haag. (10/7-11/00)

Pompano Ledger must pay legal fees

Pompano A judge has issued a
summary judgment against a Pompano
Beach newspaper who must pay
$103,000 in attorney fees.
Four years ago, the Pompano Beach
Ledger filed suit against the Pompano
Beach Chamber of Commerce,
Commissioner Kay McGinn and former
Chamber president Al Siefert, alleging
that they had been instrumental in
causing some advertisers to discontinue
their ads in the paper. (Brechner Report,

July 2000).
In two separate hearings, Judge
Robert Anders, 17th Judicial Circuit,
ruled that the newspaper's case was
without merit and authorized the
recovery of attorney fees. "They failed to
produce either the 'somebody' who had
been causing the advertisers to abandon
the paper as well as an advertiser who
would testify on its behalf," said John
Gillespie, the attorney for the Chamber.

University police

resist code sharing
Gainesville The University of
Florida Police Department remains the
lone law enforcement standout in sharing
codes with the media that would allow
them access to signals on a new
dispatching system, claiming that
releasing the codes would stifle their
"We could not communicate freely
over the UHF frequencies because
technology allowed scanning of it," said
Maj. Tony Dunn. He said that news media
access would hamper efficiency because
officers would have to continue to use
the telephone when discussing
confidential information.
"The claim of convenience I'm not
sure that's justified given that is what
they have historically been doing," said
Sandra Chance, director of the Brechner
Center. "I don't think it's asking a whole
lot to continue using telephones if there
is a need for confidentiality given the
importance of access to this public
information," she said.
The new digital communications
system is being phased into use by all
public safety agencies, including law
enforcement, fire and rescue. The
Gainesville Police Department and
Alachua County sheriff s office support
releasing their codes. (11/19/00)

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
e-mail: jthomas@jou.ufl.edu
Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Director/Executive Editor
Jane Inouye, Editor
Jackie Thomas, Production Coordinator
Michel Lester, Production Assistant
Bill F. Chamberlin, Ph.D., FoundingDirector
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 CenterforFreedom ofInformation, the
University of Florida College of Journalism and
Communications, the Florida Press Association, the
Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida Society
of Newspaper Editors andthe JosephL. Brechner

The Brechner Report U December 2000 3

Online voting debate raises privacy issues

Voting may be the least demanding obligation of
citizens in a democracy, but voting-at least, in the
American imagination-represents a core belief in the
democratic process. Ask a room full of Americans the
The for a
Back Pae democratic
Back Page system of

Melinda McAdams

By Melinda McAdams government,
and one of the first
items on the list will be the right to vote for their leaders.
Until this year's national election, most people paid little
attention to the mechanics of voting in a country with more than
140 million registered voters. Now that the mechanical aspects
have become a widespread topic of conversation, some
Americans have speculated that using computers would provide
a more reliable system for recording and counting the popular
The idea of voting online is not new. In March 2000, the first
official online vote in the United States took place in the
Arizona Democratic presidential primary: 39,942 people cast
ballots online, out of a total 86,907 votes.' The success of the
Arizona primary has encouraged other states to consider online
voting with the expectation that it would increase voter turnout.
Online voting raises questions about security, as well as
voters' confidentiality, fair representation of all groups in the
society (including those who are poor or less well educated),
and the potential for short-term mass manipulation of public
opinion (concerning binding referenda). Given the events of the
recent election, I will limit my remarks here to security.
The key security issues in online voting are actually similar
to those in other ballot-counting systems and can be boiled
down to one question: How can the public know whether the
votes were counted accurately-or at all? A related question is,
How can the public know whether the votes were submitted
honestly-or at all? Computer-network tampering could come
from within the government, or from outside-from an enemy

government, or from home-grown opponents to the
current government.
Each online voter needs a unique ID code to
ensure that no one votes more than once. The same ID
code also proves that the person is allowed to vote in a
particular election. Developing a coding system and
assigning a unique code to each voter does not pose a
significant problem. What's hard is guaranteeing that

the ID code is used only by the person to whom it
belongs and no one else. What's also hard to guarantee is
privacy. If my unique ID code is submitted along with my vote,
then my vote is not confidential. It can be stored in a database
and retrieved many years from now-along with my name.
If online voting comes into wide use, what will be the effect
on the public trust? That will be more important than the
technical details. If the voters lose confidence in free and fair
elections, the democratic system will be compromised.
One way to ensure public confidence in the system would be
to publish openly all programming and hardware details of the
voting system and its security measures. This would make
possible oversight and criticism by intermediaries, with
expertise in computer programming and encryption, who are
not on the government's payroll. Another possibility is to
provide a printed "receipt" to each voter (although that would
be no guarantee that the vote transmitted through the network
matched what appeared on the printout).
Perhaps it will be necessary to implement two redundant
systems-a typical failsafe measure for computer technology.
By having two parallel voting systems and comparing the
results from each, the integrity of the democracy might be
Of the 39,942 Internet ballots, 35,768 were cast remotely, and the remaining 4,174 were cast at
polling places using Internet terminals, according to the Arizona Democratic Party (www azdem org)

Melinda McAdams, serves as professor and Knight Chair,
journalism technologies and the democratic process, at the
University of Florida. She joined the UFfaculty in 1999.

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