Title: Brechner report
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090012/00023
 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: November 2001
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090012
Volume ID: VID00023
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 25, Number 11 A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom of IC .. .., College ofJournalism and Communications U University ofFlorida
November 2001

State denies public

TALLAHASSEE -Responding to
requests from state and federal law
enforcement investigators, Florida has
refused access to public records several
times since the Sept. 11 terrorist
The Department of Highway Safety
and Motor Vehicles shut down access to
driver's license information on Sept. 19,
saying that the records were part of an
active criminal investigation.
Public access was restored the next
day after officials installed a program to
redact the
addresses ACCESS
and social
security RECORDS
numbers of
foreign nationals from 12 Middle
Eastern or Southeast Asian countries
who had received licenses during a
certain time period.
After access was restored, the
department continued to refuse requests
to release applications made by the
hijackers, as many as 13 of whom may
have held Florida drivers' licenses or
identification cards.
The Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services was asked to not
release any information on
approximately 150 people who hold
crop-dusting licenses in Florida.
Attorney General Bob Butterworth
told the St. Petersburg Times that the
reason the Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles gave for
refusing driving records requests was
His office is investigating whether
state law allows the kind of shutdown
the department initiated.
"Highway Safety made a decision to
go along with the FBI and, you know, I
don't blame them," Butterworth said.
(9/20/01 9/26/01)

TALLAHASSEE- A new statewide Additionally, the plan would set up
security plan proposed by Gov. Jeb Bush seven regional anti-terrorism task
and Florida's emergency officials would forces, create a statewide anti-terrorism
in part close or limit access to some database, and pay for police to get
government records and expand police additional training.
wiretap and surveillance powers. The legislators chairing Florida's
The plan would limit public access to House and Senate security committees
jail booking reports and other existing said they did not know specifically when
public records, such as driver's licenses, the committees would consider the
during ongoing criminal investigations, public records issues.
Documents related to police officer cell "The challenge is to protect and
phones and pagers would be exempt. secure the state while at the same time
The plan also would prevent the not tromping on the Constitution," said
public from accessing reports on state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite,
terrorism prevention plans and R-Brooksville. (10/2/01 10/8/01)
intelligence operations and assessments Editor's note: See related
of the state's vulnerability to attacks, commentary on page 4.

Anti-terr orism billincr easespolicepowers

WASHINGTON House and Senate
versions of an anti-terrorism bill that
passed in mid-October would expand
law enforcement surveillance and search
powers, including greater access to
Internet communication.
The bill also would allow prosecutors
to share transcripts from wiretaps and
grand jury proceedings with intelligence
agencies and open more educational
records to law enforcement officials.
Both the House and Senate version of
the bill would permit "roving wiretaps,"
which would authorize wiretapping of
multiple telephone lines rather than a
single telephone line. Officials also
could delay notifying homeowners about

searching and photographing property
and downloading computer files.
Software filtering system used to
pick out e-mail messages may be used
more under provisions allowing broader
electronic surveillance. Civil liberties
advocates argue that the bill could open
average citizens' e-mails or Web surfing
habits to law enforcement scrutiny,
including Web use at public libraries.
Under the House version of the bill,
the electronic surveillance provisions
would expire after three years unless
renewed by the president for two more
years. A conference committee is
reconciling the versions of the bill.
(10/14/01 10/16/01)

City rejects solution to allow phonevoting
BOYNTON The Boynton Beach telephone, provided they gave the city
City Commission rejected 48 hours notice and were
a resolution that would A C C SS present on the telephone
have allowed throughout the discussion of
commissioners to attend MEETIN GS the matter being voted on.
meetings via electronic The commission voted 3-2
media, including telephones. to reject the proposal, which faced
The proposed resolution would have opposition from several community
allowed commissioners to vote via members. (8/21/01 9/5/01)


SECsued over FOIAhandbook
WASHINGTON- A legal news handbook.
publisher has filed a federal Freedom of Initially, the SEC refused to release
Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. any part of the handbook but made
Securities and Exchange Commission to several portions public following an
access the SEC's FOIA handbook, administrative appeal of the decision.
American Lawyer Media, which The handbook's 200-plus pages,
publishes 24 legal trade newspapers and ironically, describe how the agency is
magazines, wants a judge to review the supposed to deal with requests from the
agency's refusal to release its FOIA public for SEC records. (9/20/01)

Departmentdenies FCATtestrequest

LARGO The Florida Department of
Education has denied a public records
request from a Pinellas County parent
who wants to see her son's answer sheet
and test booklet from the Florida
Comprehensive Assessment Test
Betty J. Shields asked to see the test
in order to figure out what areas her son
needs to work on before taking it again
this year.
Shields' son, an 11th-grader, took the
test last year but did not score high
enough to pass the state's graduation
Pinellas School Board Attorney John

Bowen sent a memorandum in support
of Shields' request.
Bowen said Shields has a right to see
the answer sheet and test booklet
because it is part of her son's student
The Department of Education
refused, saying the FCAT exam was
considered confidential under Florida
"They are saying it's not a public
record under Florida law," Bowen told
the St. Petersburg Times. "The point is,
it is a student record and the parent has a
right to see it. They didn't even address
that issue." (9/6/01 9/21/01)

AGO:Juvenile felony complaints are public

TALLAHASSEE Felony complaints
and arrest affidavits involving a juvenile
student and created by school police
officers are public records, according to
an opinion from Florida's attorney
Attorney General Bob Butterworth
was responding to a question from Luis
M. Garcia, the senior assistant board
attorney for the Miami-Dade County
school system.
"The fact that school students are
involved in crimes on school property


Copies of case opinions, Florida
Attorney General opinions, or
i,., ,ii, ,,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 of Florida, Gainesville,
FL 32611-8400, (352) 392-2273.

does not convert standard law
enforcement records into 'education
records,' thereby making such material
confidential ...," Butterworth wrote.
However, the felony complaints/
arrest affidavits filed against juvenile
students are subject to other exemptions
of Florida's Public Records Law,
including, but not limited to,
information about active investigations
and the names of sexual battery victims,
according to the opinion.
(AGO 2001-64, 9/12/01)

ATLANTA- The 1 thU.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals vacated a lower court's
order that would have unsealed
documents in a lawsuit filed against
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
The company settled the lawsuit with
Michael and Kim Van Etten in the death
of their son, Daniel, but media
organizations including CBS, The
Washington Post, the Los Angeles
Times and the ( I,/...'. Tribune
challenged the sealing of 15 documents
in the case. Judge Anthony Alaimo, U.S.
District Court in Brunswick, Ga.,


blocksmap access
Imagery and Mapping Agency blocked
public access to several maps because of
concerns stemming from the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks.
The agency barred the U.S.
Geological Survey and the Federal
Aviation Administration from selling
topographical maps made by NIMA. The
agency also ordered the Library of
Congress and the National Archives and
Records Administration to deny public
access to the maps.
Some maps are again available to the
public while maps of U.S. military
installations and detailed U.S. maps are
still being reviewed by the agency.
Access to nautical and aeronautical
maps, which are used for navigation, was
never blocked.
Most of the maps produced by NIMA
are classified, but some are made
available to the public. (10/3/01)

Auditfinds problems
with Sunshineissues
WELAKA An audit of the town's
business practices identified several
problems, including failure to keep
proper public records and Open
Meetings violations.
The $30,000 audit found that Welaka
failed to keep financial records the town
is legally required to keep including
records of two $50,000 certificates of
Auditors also said that the town
council did not provide the public with
adequate notice of a scheduled vote to
raise the council's pay and the mayor's
pay. (7/31/01)

ordered the documents released to the
press but stayed the order pending the
appeal by Bridgestone/Firestone, which
claimed the sealed documents related to
company trade secrets.
The appeals court vacated the order
that unsealed the documents and sent the
case back to Alaimo for review. The
three-judge panel instructed Alaimo to
determine if the documents contain
trade secrets and to weigh the
information's confidentiality against the
health and safety interest of the public.
(9/1/01 9/10/01)

2 The Brechner Report U November 2001

Courtvacates order unsealingdocuments


AGO Informalmeetings,workshopscanbeheldonline

TALLAHASSEE Airport authority
members can conduct informal meetings
over the Internet if proper notice is
given and access made available to
anyone who wishes to attend, according
to Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
However, when a quorum is necessary to
take action at a meeting, the quorum
must be present physically at the
meeting place.
Butterworth issued the opinion in

response to a question from Leesburg
City Attorney Joseph C. Shoemaker on
behalf of the Leesburg Regional Airport
Workshops and informal meetings
may take place on the Internet as long as
the authority gives the public proper
notice and provides interactive access to
the public, including public access to the
Internet via computers provided to the
public by the airport authority.

Residentto challenge Sunshine ruling

Clark V. Hoshall Jr. filed a challenge in
Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal to
a May ruling that cleared Nassau County
officials of Sunshine Law violations.
Judge L. Haldane Taylor, 4th Judicial
Circuit, ruled in May that county
officials did not violate the Open
Meetings and Public Records laws in
deciding to relocate the county


courthouse to Yulee. (Brechner Report,
July 2001) The appeal claims Taylor
ignored evidence of Sunshine violations
and alleges that a committee appointed
by the board met illegally with
contractors. Hoshall is asking the
appeals court to void the vote that
approved the move to Yulee and to void
an agreement with the judiciary
concerning the facilities. (9/22/01)

Judge rules tap ingofofficial notaviolation

PANAMA CITY Public officials
have no reasonable expectation of
privacy when talking to a member of the
public in the presence of others in a
public building, a judge ruled as part of a
covert tape recording case.
Don T. Sirmons, 14th Judicial
Circuit, dismissed a charge against
Randy Fowler that claimed Fowler had

illegally taped a conversation without
the consent of the person being taped.
Fowler secretly taped a conversation
with State Attorney Jim Appleman in the
lobby of the State Attorney's Office in
Panama City. Sirmons ruled that the
state's secret taping laws do not apply to
public officials conducting official
business in public places. (7/6/01)

For mer bodyguards file suit again stTVho st

MIAMI Three former bodyguards
have filed a lawsuit against talk show
host Rosie O'Donnell, claiming
O'Donnell illegally taped their
A device, hidden in a smoke detector
in O'Donnell's home on Star Island,
reportedly recorded conversations.
The suit claims O'Donnell and two


security companies invaded the
bodyguards privacy and violated a
Florida law that makes it a crime to
record conversations without someone's
knowledge. O'Donnell reportedly has
signed an affidavit in which she says she
did not know that a security company
had installed the listening device.
(9/7/01 9/12/01)

Commission clears candidate ofadviolations

FORT MYERS The Florida
Elections Commission cleared former
Lee County Sheriff John McDougall of
69 violations, stemming from an ad run
in The News-Press of Fort Myers.
The ad ran in September but didn't

carry the required disclaimer of "paid
political advertising." (Brechner Report,
May 2001) The elections commission
dismissed the charges. A newspaper
official described the incident as "an
honest mistake." (5/15/01)

Meeting notices would need to
include the location of the public
If the meeting requires an action
where a quorum is required, then the
members of the quorum must physically
be in the same room, Butterworth wrote.
"Internet access to such meetings,
however, may still be offered to provide
greater public access," according to the
opinion. (AGO 2001-66, 9/19/01)


Open Meetings case
KEY LARGO Monroe County and
Covanta Energy, formerly Ogden Water
Systems, have dropped an appeal of a
Sunshine ruling that voided a $59.2
million contract for sewer work.
A judge ruled early this year that a
county panel that helped select Covanta
to design, build and operate sewers in
Key Largo violated the state's Open
Meetings Law. The judge ordered the
contract voided. (Brechner Report, July
The company and the county had
appealed the decision, but both have
withdrawn their appeals.
Covanta is one of three companies
with bids that are being considered for
the re-awarding of the contract.
(9/4/01 9/11/01)

The Brechner Report U November 2001 3

Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
3208 Weimer Hall, P 0 Box 118400
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8400
http //www jou ufl edu/brechner/
e-mail brechnerreport@jou ufl edu
Sandra F. Chance, J.D., Director/Executive Editor
S. Camille Broadway, Editor
Jackie Thomas, Production Coordinator
Meghan Morris, Production Assistant
Stephen Harmon, 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 The Brechner Report thanks Barnett, Bolt,
Kirkwood & Long and Colleen Ahern for their
contributions to this issue

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