SAN CARLOS PARK- Some board
members of the San Carlos Park Fire
Protection & Rescue Service District
violated the Sunshine Law after meeting
in a private executive session, according
to the district's attorney.
Board members went into a private
executive session after a scheduled open
meeting to discuss Fire Chief Nat
Ippolito's contract. Members said at the
time they thought the meeting was legal
because of an exemption that allows
officials to hold private meetings for
Terry Lewis said the commissioners
misinterpreted the exemptionwhich
covers collective bargaining for union
officials, but not for the fire chief, who is
not part of the union, he said.
The commissioners who attended the
meeting said they understood the statute
to include the chief's contract.
"It was done so unconsciously with
no thought of breaking the law," said
board Chairwoman Mary Lou Garofalo.
"It was just something that took us all by
Lewis said the commissioners will
correct the action in an August meeting
by attempting to recreate the discussion
"It will come before the board at a
regularly scheduled meeting," he said.
"They will bring both items up and have
a full discussion."
Chere Avery, communications director
for the state attorney's office, said the
office would investigate a claim if
someone files a complaint. (7/15/03)
Sunshine Law case will not be retried
PENSACOLA State Attorney Curtis no longer in office, and she had served
Golden has decided against retrying jailtime.
former Escambia County school board "Charges were dropped five years too
member Vanette Webb, the first Florida late," Webb said in an e-mail to the
politicians ailed forviolating the Pensacola News Journal. "Justice
Sunshine Law. delayed is justice denied."
Webb served seven days of a 30-day Jon Kaney, general counsel for the
jail sentence in 1999 afterbeing First Amendment Foundation, said
convicted of violating the Webb's case has already
Public Records Law. A A QAC CS served a valuable purpose.
judge later ordered a new AE SU "The name Vanette
trial after questioning RECORDS Webb willbe remembered
whether Webb knew if the by the public officials,
files she refused to release to a parent lawyers and the press in this state for a
were public records, long time," Kaney said. "A point was
Golden dropped the charge against made rather emphatically when she was
Webb stating that another trial would prosecuted and convicted."
serve no purpose because the Former Commissioner W. D. Childers
constitutionality of the Public Records is the only other official to serve jail time
Law had been upheld in appeals that forviolating Florida's Sunshine Law.
followed Webb's conviction, she was (7/22/03)
Three men arrested at rally file lawsuit
MIAMI Three men arrested for there (at the protest zone), but you
protesting at a 2002 Gov. Jeb Bush couldn't see it from where the event was
campaign rally at the University of happening," Elend said.
South Florida have filed suit against the The suit names the Secret Service, the
Secret Service and others, arguing that sheriff's office, USF and Sun Dome Inc.,
their First Amendment rights were which operates the arena.
violated. Elend said the Secret Service and
The three men, Joe deputies discriminated at
Redner, Adam Elend and FIR the rally by allowing
Jeff Marks, were arrested those with pro-Bush and
because they would not AMENDMENT neutral signs nearby, but
move into areas designated sending anti-Bush
by the Secret Service as
"free speech zones." The men said they
were attending the rally specifically to
protest the zones, with signs reading
"Don't let these crooks fool you" on
one side and a quote from a Supreme
Court First Amendment decision on the
Elend said USF officials ordered them
to a designated zone about a half-mile
"There were a couple hundred people
protesters to the zone.
Bruce Winick, a professor at the
University of Miami School of Law, said
the courts have traditionally allowed
restrictions that are reasonable as to
time, place and manner. But he said the
restrictions must be applied equally to
protesters and supporters.
The three men said they've been
protesting both Democratic and
Republican rallies for years, calling their
act "a freedom thing." (8/4/03)
Volume 27, Number 9 E A monthly report of mass media law in Florida
Published by The Brechner Center for Freedom ofI,, .. .., College ofJournalism and Communications U University ofFlorida
ACCESS RECORDS CONTINUED
PINELLAS PARK State Attorney
Bernie McCabe has found that the
original police records concerning city
manager Jerry Mudd's suicide have not
been shredded as police had suggested.
On Feb. 11 when Mudd died, Pinellas
Park officials denied requests made by
the St. Petersburg Times for copies of
original police records and Mudd's
suicide note. After the paper sued for
release of the documents, police Sgt. Dan
Levy testified that he had been ordered
to have Donna Saxer change the police
report to omit a verbatim copy of Mudd's
suicide note. When asked what he did
with the report, he testified that it was
put in his shred pile.
McCabe said Levy then testified that
things on the pile "ultimately get
shredded," not "got shredded" as was
reported in the Times. McCabe also said
that Levy told a state attorney's
investigator that "it was not shredded."
"At some point in time, he was
somehow directed to go find it.
...Basically, he hadn't gotten around to
shredding the pile," McCabe said. "My
investigator's report says, 'I determined
that the original report...was not
shredded but in the possession of
(Pinellas Park police) Chief (Dorene)
It is still unclear why the city did not
turn over the documents since they had
not been shredded, according to a story
in the St. Petersburg Times. (6/3/03)
Copies of case opinions, Florida
Attorney General opinions, or
!,., i,,.,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.
State Attorney clears city of
Public Records Law complaint
investigating an official Sunshine Law
complaint, the Brevard State Attorney's
Office has concluded that no law was
violated by West Melbourne's city
government when it released a former
clerk's personal information into public
Pam Waters, who filed the complaint,
claimed that the city violated an
exemption clause of the Public Records
Law that allows her personal contact
information to remain private. According
to the exemption, Waters is eligible to
have her address, telephone number and
Social Security number withheld from
public access because she is married to a
law enforcement officer.
Waters' information was released as
part of her application for the city clerk's
position during a council meeting.
Waters, however, was the one solely
responsible for putting together the
meeting agenda packet which included
City Manager Mark Ryan told police
that Waters' husband never sent a
written request that the information be
exempt, as required by law.
Assistant State Attorney Wayne
Holmes said that evidence suggests
Waters had time to prevent her personal
informationfrombecoming public. The
State Attorney's Office also said that the
release of her Social Security number,
which is a crime, was done inadvertently
"It can be a crime if there is a knowing
and willful dissemination of a Social
Security number," Holmes said. "So
what you had was a clerk who released
these inadvertently. So there is no
The exemption, which includes law
enforcement officers' addresses and
telephone numbers, also extends to
Department of Childrenand Families
investigators and local government tax
collectors to protect employees and their
families fromretribution. (7/31/03)
CLEARWATER A social dinner
organized for county commissioners from
Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough
counties was called off two hours before
the event to avoid breaking
Florida's Sunshine Law.
Pinellas County A C
Karen Seel planned the MEE
dinner to acquaint the 19
commissioners. She invited them along
with their spouses, but realized the public
had not been invited.
An hour before the dinner was called
off, a St. Petersburg Times reporter had
inquired if the meeting had been
advertised as required by the law.
Seel called the oversight a mistake and
said she had left instructions with her
staff to advertise the dinner. She said
she was surprised to learn that never
After consulting with the county
attorney, Seel decided to call the dinner
off rather than risk a possible Sunshine
"I didn't want to break the law," Seel
said. "I respect the law. I have always
complied with it, and do not want to put
any of the commissioners in
a situation in which they
E SS would be breaking the law."
Scott said he was looking
forward to casually meeting with other
"The original intent was so we could
get together and kind of get to know one
another," Scott said. "It was kind of
more of a get-acquainted thing. I want
that and have asked staff to look at
Jim Bennett, deputy Pinellas County
attorney, said he thinks the get-together
can be rescheduled.
"But perhaps not as a dinner,"
Bennett said. "In a public setting where
the public will feel more comfortable."
2 The Brechner Report September 2003
Dinner cancelled for county
commissioners at last minute
Judge rules street vendors can be fined ACLU offers signs
MIAMI A judge has ruled that
newspaper vendors can be ticketed for
selling papers in the street, rejecting a
claim that banning vendors violates the
The Miami Herald and the South
Florida Sun-Sentinel took the city of
Hollywood to court seeking a preliminary
injunction against the city for enforcing a
ban on street newspaper vendors. The
two papers filed suit against the city
claiming that police were interfering with
newspaper distribution when they issued
citations to three Sun-Sentinel vendors
and at least one from The Herald on
March 25. The suit also insists that
vendors acted legally by standing on
medians and sidewalks unless going into
the street to sell the newspaper.
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz
refused the newspapers' request for a
preliminary injunction afterviewing
videotapes of vendors walking between
cars stopped at signals and being told
three vendors have been killed in recent
years. Seitz said that the Florida law
used to ticket the vendors is content
neutral and promotes a significant
interest in public safety.
City attorney Daniel Abbott said if the
newspapers decide against an appeal, the
city would ask to have the lawsuit
ACCESS MEETINGS CONTINUED
Officials charged for Sunshine violation
PALM COAST After a three-week
investigation, the State Attorney's Office
has concluded that a private discussion
between Flagler County School Board
Chairman Edward Herrera and board
member Jim Guines about their
superintendent's raise violated the
The findings also determined that the
discussion between the men was an
unintentional violation. Because of this,
both officials have been charged with
non-criminal civil violation, usually
bringing a $500 fine.
Herrera said he never meant to violate
the law when he called Guines to discuss
a $44,000 raise for Superintendent Robert
Corley before the issue was discussed at
a public meeting.
The State Attorney's Office said the
phone conversation was unlawful
because the two officials discussed
"issues that could...come before the
School Board of Flagler County."
Jon Kaney, general counsel for the
First Amendment Foundation, thought
the decision could have been a lot worse
for the two officials.
"I would have called that a willful
violation," Kaney said. "They got a slap
on the wrist when they should have got a
spank on the butt."
A conviction for an intentional
violation is a criminal offense with a
possible jail term, loss of elected position
and up to $500 in fines.
Herrera has apologized to Guines and
Flagler County residents for his actions.
Neither Herrera nor Guines intend to
challenge the decision. (7/10/03-7/12/03)
Fire commissioners did not violate law
PINELLAS COUNTY-After looking
into a Sunshine Law complaint, a Pinellas
County sheriff has concluded that two
fire commissioners did not violate the law
when they got together with community
activists after a meeting.
Fire board chairman Mike Brophy
lodged the complaint in May, saying that
John Frank and Bill Adams violated the
Open Meetings Law when they met at
Denny's restaurant with Ray Neri,
director ofthe Lealman Community
Association, and Mike Quinlivan,
executive director ofthe Lealman Family
Neri said it was a typical get-together
where fire board business was not
Pat Gleason, general counsel for state
Attorney General Charlie Crist said there
is nothing wrong with two or more
members of an elected board getting
together to discuss purely social or
"The Sunshine Law wasn't intended
to stifle discussion of communitywide
issues," Gleason said. "The Sunshine
Law doesn't prohibit those type of
discussions when they're out of the
scope of board business." (8/10/03)
to inform public
MIAMI The American Civil Liberties
Union of Florida is offering hundreds of
placards to county and university
libraries warning patrons that their library
records may be monitored by the
The placards will advise library users
that the USA Patriot Act enacted after
Sept. 11,2001 can subject library records
to government surveillance without their
The 10-by-12-inch poster displays the
Statue of Liberty with large, yellow
lettering reading: "Attention. Under
Section 215 of the federal USA Patriot
Act records of the books and other
materials you borrow from this library
may be obtained by federal agents." The
poster also informs users that librarians
cannot tell patrons if their records have
been seized by the government, and
urges that any questions about the law
be directed to Attorney General John
Howard Simon, executive directorof
the Florida ACLU, said the signs are
meant to inform the public of the law, as
well as provoke outrage over what the
ACLU considers an invasive law that
tramples on basic First Amendment
Libraries will use their own discretion
to decide whether or not to post the
S .. I I I I' lI I
Ui i i IIi, ) l i lI
i .I .i'i.il iitl'. i l 'dtill' ll I'II III
I I n n h ,
r,,i,,*r" l i h I , r
I ~ I ;, I, ,, ,, I I 1 1 I. II, .I I ,, I
The Brechner Report September 2003 3
Time, healing bring renewed perspective on the First Amendment
Two years after the terrorist attacks in New York and
Washington, D.C., our nation appears to have caught
its breath and regained some perspective.
Those horrific assaults took a tremendous toll, in
lives as well as on our collective psyche. How could we
prevent this kind of attack from happening again? Did
we need to limit liberties in the interest of security?
The Were we too
B k P g free to be truly
c sn oe safe?
That sense of
By Ken rauison freedom as an obstacle to
the war on terrorism was reflected last year in our annual survey
gauging public support for First Amendment freedoms. For the
first time in our polling, 49 percent of respondents said they
believed the First Amendment gives us too much freedom.
While reaction to fear is largely reflexive, the passage of time
allows us to be reflective. The 2003 State of the First Amendment
survey conducted in collaboration with American Journalism
Review suggested that public support for First Amendment
freedoms may be returning to pre-9/11 levels. About 61 percent
of respondents indicated overall support for First Amendment
freedoms, while 34 percent said First Amendment freedoms go
While First Amendment advocates certainly can't regard it as
a victory that one-third of Americans have misgivings about
these fundamental freedoms, there are other signs that most
Americans continue to embrace freedom of speech and religion.
While respondents displayed less enthusiasm for freedom of the
press, they did give high marks to the news media for their work
during the war in Iraq.
Among the key findings:
The least popular First Amendment right continued to be
freedom of the press 46 percent said the press in America has
too much freedom to do what it wants, up from 42 percent last
Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they favor the
policy of embedding U.S. journalists in individual combat units,
and 68% said the news media did an excellent or goodjob in
covering the war.
Despite the positive perception of war coverage, more than
two out of three surveyed said the government should be able to
S review in advance journalists' reports directly from
military combat zones.
S- Americans indicated a hunger for more information
about the war on terrorism. Forty-eight percent of those
surveyed said they believed that Americans have too
little information about the federal government's efforts
to combat terrorism.
When asked whether they believe the media have
too much freedom to publish or whether there's too
much government censorship, response was split: 43
son percent said there's too much media freedom, and 38
percent said there's too much government censorship.
The war in Iraq put protests back on newspaper front pages
and gave a number of Americans second thoughts about
dissent. The war also fueled a new effort to rewrite the
Constitution to ban burning of the American flag.
Overall, the 2003 State of the First Amendment survey results
suggest some challenges for America's news media.
While most respondents gave the press high marks for Iraq
war coverage and said they count on the news media to provide
more information about the war on terrorism, they also said the
press has too much freedom and indicated suspicion of those
who own the nation's newspapers and broadcast stations.
Fortunately, Americans also recognize responsible and
responsive news coverage when they see it. For all of the
skepticism about news media ownership and excesses, the
nation's journalists remain uniquely positioned to win support
for a free press and the First Amendment as a whole by
living up to the watchdog role envisioned by the founding
At a time when many remain tempted to roll back civil liberties
in the name of security, a free press plays a crucial role.
The nation's news media truly honor the First Amendment
when they ask the tough questions, fight to keep the public's
business public and provide the kind of thorough and balanced
reporting that is the lifeblood of a democracy.
Ken Paulson is the Freedom Forum senior vice president and
executive director of the First Amendment Center in Nashville,
Tenn. He is a veteran newspaper editor and lawyer, and writes
on free speech and First Amendment issues. For a complete
copy of this article, visit http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org.