Volume 33, Number 9 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
NCAA documents ruled public
TALLAHASSEE A Circuit Court
judge has ruled that NCAA documents
related to alleged cheating among dozens
of Florida State University athletes
are public records. The A
Associated Press and more (
than a dozen other Florida
news organizations filed suit RECC
seeking the records.
A transcript of an October 2008
hearing is at the center of the case, with
the transcript being viewed by FSU and
its lawyers through a secure NCAA Web
site, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The NCAA, a private organization, argued
that it was not subject to Florida's Public
Records Law and that FSU was never in
possession of the records.
Judge John C. Cooper, however, ruled
that viewing documents on the Web site
provided by the NCAA was equivalent
to receiving a paper copy. "The NCAA's
position is clearly contrary to the broad
SS interpretation given to the
definition of public records in
DS Florida courts and legislative
DS language," Cooper said,
according to the Orlando
Sentinel. The NCAA is expected to
appeal the ruling to the First District
Court of Appeal.
The NCAA's investigation has been
appealed by FSU, who could be forced to
vacate victories in 10 sports, including 14
wins by football coach Bobby Bowden.
The case involved 61 student-athletes who
Source: Orlando Sentinel
TALLAHASSEE E-mails not released
by Northwest Florida State College as part
of a public records request were recovered
as part of a criminal investigation into the
dealings of ousted House Speaker Ray
Sansom and fired college President Bob
The e-mails were released to Leon
County State Attorney Willie Meggs, but
were not released to The Palm Beach
Post in November when the newspaper
filed a public records request for "all
communications between Richburg and
Sansom from 2007 and 2008," according
to the newspaper. The e-mails discuss
plans for building a private jet hangar with
$6 million in state money.
Planning documents and e-mails
obtained through public records link
Sansom, Richburg and developer Jay
Odom to the project.
In one July 2007 e-mail obtained by The
Palm Beach Post, Richburg wrote that he
and Odom agreed that Sansom was "the
king pin" in the hangar project.
Many of the newly released e-mails
were recovered by state investigators from
Richburg's college-issued BlackBerry.
The State Attorney's Office also recovered
e-mails sent by and written to Sansom that
House officials had previously claimed did
The recovery of the e-mails revives
the controversy over the e-mail retention
policy for state lawmakers, which is less
strict than the requirements imposed by
the legislature on state agencies, local
governments and the governor's office.
Meggs' investigation has revealed
at least 18 private e-mail accounts,
including two for Sansom and one for
Jill Chamberlin, who serves as the House
speaker's communications director.
Both Sansom and Richburg were
indicted in April on charges of official
misconduct and perjury.
Source: The Palm Beach Post and
Northwest Florida Daily News
Hillsborough County Circuit Judge
Emmet Battles vacated an order barring
the local media from publishing stories
about statements made by four male
teenage students accused of sexually
assaulting a classmate.
One day earlier, the judge ordered
a story posted on TBO.com based on
the statements to be taken down and
prohibited further stories based on the
information from being written. The
Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News
Channel 8 challenged the judge's order
arguing that blocking the release of the
information was a prior restraint on free
speech. In vacating the order, Battles
said that the statements, contained in
the court file of the case, were lawfully
obtained. Prosecutors have said the
statements were inadvertently placed in
the court file, according to TBO. com.
rules in Bonita
BONITA SPRINGS In a unanimous
action, the city council set new rules
requiring that all city employees and
volunteers forward e-mails related to city
business from personal e-mail accounts to
the city's e-mail server.
The change came after the State
Attorney's Office investigated a public
records complaint against Councilwoman
Janet Martin alleging she had not
provided e-mails requested under the
Public Records Law from her personal
e-mail account. Martin's attorney said
the councilwoman mistakenly deleted the
e-mails, but had since recovered them,
according to the Naples Daily News.
Source: Naples Daily News
Additional e-mails released after
search of Sansom's BlackBerry
Ex-employee alleges violations in Santa Rosa
SANTA ROSA COUNTY The State Daily News. Former Santa Rosa county
Attorney's Office for the 1st Judicial Romi White, the assistant public commissioner Tom Stewart told th
Circuit is reviewing several complaints information officer from June 2006 to Northwest Florida Daily News tha
of Sunshine Law violations by county May 2007, filed several of the complaints. White's complaints were meritless
commissioners raised by a former White alleged she was directed by result of White being passed over
assistant public information officer and a county commissioner to stop using promotion.
two county residents, her county e-mail when dealing with a Santa Rosa residents Alan Isaac
The State Attorney's Office has said political action committee lobbying the and Jerry Couey have also filed se
the inquiry is considered a Ic\ iCk ," commission and that the commission held complaints with the State Attorney
not an "investigation." The office is also at least one unadvertised meeting at which Office regarding Sunshine Law vi
looking into alleged violations by Santa no minutes were taken to discuss how by the commission related to the p
Rosa County's economic development they would vote on a hiring freeze at an of land for an industrial park.
council, according to Northwest Florida
upcoming regular meeting.
City notices yearly goal planning
meetings but minutes missing
PANAMA CITY Officials were not needed because no action was
participating in a yearly meeting taken. The meeting was attended by
to discuss future plans for the city, the five city commissioners, city staff
including the city's budget AC C E SS members, and a third-
and water system, may 3 party "facilitator."
have violated Florida's MEETINGS According to
Sunshine Law by not Florida's Sunshine Law,
taking minutes at the meeting.
At the yearly meetings, city officials
meet to discuss goals for improving the
city in the upcoming 12 to 24 months.
This year's June meeting was
properly noticed, but minutes of the
meeting were not taken and have not
been taken at such meetings in previous
years, according to the News-Herald.
City Clerk Terri Lillard said minutes
minutes must be taken
at meetings where two or more board or
commission members meet to discuss
issues that could come before them in the
City officials have said the violation
was not intentional and that they will
work to correct it, according to the
Federal judge rules in favor of
Naples reporter called to testify
NAPLES A federal judge agreed that that Angiolillo sought details from
the reporter's privilege should apply to conversations the reporter had with the
a Naples Daily News reporter who was former Sheriff's Office spokeswoman in
subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit brought which the spokeswoman alleged there
by one of the failed candidates for Collier had been improper campaigning at the
County sheriff. Sheriff's Office, according to The Naples
Reporter Ryan Mills was subpoenaed Daily News.
to testify in a lawsuit brought by Vinny U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster
Angiolillo against Collier County Sheriff's Chappell granted the motion, stating
Office and the current sheriff. Angiolillo that Mills was s.impil gathering
alleges that he was illegally arrested, news to report on the plaintiff's case"
falsely imprisoned and discredited as a and that there was no evidence the
candidate, information sought could not be obtained
In a motion to quash the subpoena, from another source, according to the
Deanna K. Shullman, an attorney newspaper.
representing the newspaper, wrote Source: The Naples Daily News
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY The
residents of Hillsborough County no
longer have to be present at county
budget meetings for their questions
and comments to be heard thanks to a
county initiative allowing for "virtual
town hall" events, according to The
During the meetings to discuss
the fiscal 2010 budget, residents can
watch the hearings
NEW on the county's
cable television station (HTV) or
online streaming video. They can
address questions or comments to
commissioners via phone, e-mail or
video recording using YouTube.
Commissioners make an effort
to answer the questions in real time,
according to The Tampa Tribune.
"It allows people to participate
in county government from the
comfort of their homes," said county
communications director Lori Hudson,
according to the newspaper. "No more
driving downtown or driving to some
The commission held the first
of four budget hearings using the
technology in June. The virtual
features can be accessed through
the county's Web site at http:/www.
Source: The Tampa Tribune and
2 The Brechner Report September 2009
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
release of iPod
SEATTLE A Seattle television
station's request for records related to
iPods catching fire and overheating
was delayed seven months by
Apple attorneys, who filed multiple
Amy Clancy, consumer investigator
for KIRO 7, had filed a Freedom
of Information Act request with the
Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) for all complaints related to
burs and fires involving iPods. The
CPSC is a federal agency perhaps best
known for issuing recalls of unsafe
Months later and over the objection
of Apple attorneys, the CPSC released
more than 800 pages of records
containing reports of cases where
iPods have caught fire, smoked or
burned their owners, according to a
report from KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.
The documents reveal that although
the CPSC determined the risk of injury
is very low, it did notify Apple of the
company's obligation to "inform the
Commission of defects associated
with this product which could create
substantial product hazard" under
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The BrechnerReport is published 12 times a
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White House visi
WASHINGTON The Obama
administration has refused several
Freedom of Information Act requests for
the lists of visitors to the White House.
Among the requests denied is MSNBC.
core's request for a list of all visitors to
the White House since the president took
office in January.
Also, several requests from the
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics
in Washington (CREW), a non-profit
organization, for lists of coal industry
executives and health care industry
executives who have visited the White
House were initially denied.
CREW has filed at least two suits
against the Department of Homeland
Security, which houses the Secret Service,
the office that maintains the visitor lists
CHICAGO The U.S. Court of
Appeals for the 7h Circuit upheld a
regulation that prohibits prisoners on
death row in the federal prison system
from meeting with reporters.
David Hammer, a death row inmate,
sued Bureau of Prisons officials after
being denied interviews with the media.
Hammer argued that the rule was a
content regulation prohibited under the
The regulation was put in place by
former Attorney General John Ashcroft
and former bureau director Kathleen
Hawk-Sawyer after Timothy McVeigh's
interview on 60 Minutes in March 2000.
In Hammer v. Ashcroft, Chief Judge
Frank Easterbrook wrote the majority
opinion relying on Pell v. Procunier,
which established that the media has no
greater constitutional right of access to
prisons or inmates than the general public.
Hammer differed from Pell, however,
itor logs still secret
After CREW announced it was filing suit
for the list of health care executives, the
White House released a partial list that
included the names of the visitors and
the dates, but not titles or employers,
according to The Associated Press.
The Department of Homeland Security
has argued that the records are protected
under the Presidential Records Act.
The Obama administration's position
echoes the arguments made by the Bush
administration in refusing to release
A separate lawsuit brought by CREW
against DHS seeking visitor logs from the
Bush administration is pending in the U.S.
Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Source: www.abcnews.com and The
Court rules clemency records open
WASHINGTON A federal district
court judge has ruled that the names of
individuals who unsuccessfully applied for
executive clemency from President George
W. Bush are not exempt from the Freedom
of Information Act.
The Office of the Pardon Attorney in
the Department of Justice had refused to
provide George Lardner with the names,
prompting his lawsuit. Lardner is working
on a book about presidential pardon
power, according to his complaint.
The Pardon Office unsuccessfully
argued that the FOIA exemptions for
personal privacy, medical records and law
enforcement records applied to Lardner's
Lardner first submitted his request in
because in this case it was the prisoner,
not the reporter, asserting a right to
interview, according to the Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The majority opinion stated that the
regulation was "reasonably related to
legitimate security interests" and that it
prevented prisoners from becoming a
"celebrity," according to the RCFP
The opinion also stated that Hammer
could speak to the press via phone or
In separate dissents, judges Llana
Rovner and Diane Wood criticized the
majority for basing their opinion on
Rovner wrote that the majority
opinion makes the "astonishing
proposition that the government may
limit a prisoner's access to the media
based on its distaste for the anticipated
outcome of the prisoner's speech."
The Brechner Report U September 2009
Death row interview ban upheld
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Public records expose flaws in wetlands protection
The whole thing started with a call from a over, we turned to analyzing satellite imagery.
source about a government report. Ten months of eye-burning misery later, we
That led to a series of award-winning had an answer: 84,000 acres of land that had
stories in the St. Petersburg Times about been swamps, bogs and marshes in 1990 had
why Florida was still losing wetlands despite been turned into houses, stores and parking lots
federal and state laws that were supposed to by 2003.
protect them. Ultimately, that phone call led to The Corps couldn't even tell us how many
the publication this spring of our book, Paving permits they had approved or denied. They
Paradise: Florida Vanishing Wetlands and were too busy cranking out permits to keep
the Failure of No Net Loss. In between, we Craig Pittman Matthew Waite track. We found out they produced a paper
filed more than 20 Freedom of Information report every three months they called them
Act requests with an alphabet soup of federal agencies. We also "quarterlies" that contained that information. All the quarterlies
filed dozens of requests for records under Florida's Government- were jammed into one poor woman's desk, so we basically
in-the-Sunshine Law. We dug submitted a FOIA request for her desk. Once we had it, we
Ta k he through academic studies, court compiled the information into a spreadsheet. That told us that
B ack Pia ge documents and bankruptcy between 1999 and 2003 the Corps had approved 12,000 permits to
By Craig Pittman & records in search of answers. destroy wetlands in Florida and denied just one.
In 2001, a local law school We sought documents from the Environmental Protection
Matthew Waite professor named Royal Gardner Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal
phoned to say that the National Emergency Management Agency. We traveled the state to dig
Research Council, an arm of the National Academies of Science, through documents belonging to the Florida Department of
had produced a startling report. It said the nation's system for Transportation to show how it was wasting millions in taxpayer
protecting wetlands was badly broken. The agency in charge of dollars on failed attempts at making up for destroying wetlands
protecting swamps, bogs and marshes, the U.S. Army Corps of with new roads.
Engineers, wasn't bothering to keep track of what it was doing, At one point, we interviewed a guy named Joe Burs who
the report said. served as the Corps of Engineers' liaison with Congress. He said
When we found out the Corps issues more permits for wetlands he frequently heard from congressmen and senators inquiring
destruction in Florida than in any other state, we knew we had about why wetland permits hadn't been issued yet. In fact, he
a story (although it took us two years and a change of editors to said, he got so many letters, calls and e-mails from congressmen
convince anyone else). We started off with a FOIA request. We that he created a database to keep track. While the interview was
had learned that each permit is supposed to have a latitude and still going on, we typed up a FOIA request for that database,
longitude point showing where the wetlands were located. We too. That led us to further FOIA requests for the records of those
figured if we got the permitting database, we could stitch together congressional contacts many of them made at the behest of
a map showing where they had been destroyed. campaign contributors who wanted favors.
Persuading the Corps to give us the database took a year, Seeing what we had found, plenty of government employees,
and when we finally convinced them to hand it over, it was went on the record to tell us how badly the nation's wetlands
worthless. Whole sections were blank. The fields that did contain protection system is broken.
geographical data were full of flaws. Some of the points were out Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite are staff writers at the St.
in the Gulf of Mexico which may be wet, but it is not a wetland. Petersburg Times. They have won several state and national
So to determine how many acres of wetlands had been paved awards for their stories on Florida s vanishing wetlands.