Report Documents Florida’s Lack of Accountability for Public Records Requests

Submitted by dbevarly on Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:21pm

WUFT      NFOIC_22      FAF_22   Knight Fdn

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Report Documents Florida’s Lack of Accountability for Public Records Requests

 

Percent of Requests with Fees and Amount Collected Varies Widely from County to County

 

Gainesville, Fla., April 16, 2018

 Despite having some of the most open public records laws in the country, Florida’s lack of accountability for state or county records requests has resulted in wide variations in fees charged, according to a report released today.

The report is based on an investigation by six WUFT News student journalists at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporting was made possible by support from the First Amendment Foundation, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Knight Foundation.

The results were first reported in The Cost of Sunshine, which appeared March 14 on wuft.org. The full report is available at https://www.wuft.org/news/the-cost-of-sunshine-2018-audit/.

For the investigation, the reporters filed record requests under Chapter 119 (Florida’s public records law) in nine counties to all county constitutional officers, including clerks of court, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, state attorneys, sheriffs, public defenders, school superintendents and tax collectors. 

Additionally, six state agencies including The Executive Office of Governor, Attorney General, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Financial Services, Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Veteran’s Affairs received the same requests. Not all the agencies audited were able to provide records.

The percent of requests with fees and amount of fees collected varied widely from county to county.  For example, The Duval County supervisor of elections requested fees for about 15 percent of their public records requests in 2016. Alachua County’s supervisor of elections requested fees in about 70 percent of records requests.  The Alachua County supervisor collected more than $400 in fees per 100,000 people while Duval County collected $63 per 100,000.

The report is a follow-up to Sunshine Lost, an investigative report last year that found that the state lacked an effective system to enforce public records laws.

For more information, contact Gary Green at ggreeen@jou.ufl.edu.

 

About the Supporters

The First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 to ensure that public commitment and progress in the areas of free speech, free press, and open government do not become checked and diluted during Florida’s changing times. Its purpose is to protect and advance the public’s constitutional right to open government by providing education and training, legal aid and information services.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a nonpartisan alliance of state and regional organizations promoting collaboration, education and advocacy for open government, transparency and freedom of information (FOI). Its affiliates include citizen-driven nonprofit FOI organizations, academic and First Amendment centers and journalistic societies.

The Knight Foundation is a national foundation that invests in journalism and the arts to foster informed and engaged communities and to promote excellence in journalism.

 

About WUFT News

WUFT News provides news, weather and sports information for residents in North Central Florida. Student journalists work alongside professional news managers in the Innovation News Center (INC), a 100-seat newsroom located in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Content from WUFT News and its sister Spanish-language platform Noticias WUFT is available on WUFT-FM and WJUF-FM, the local NPR affiliate; WUFT-TV, the local PBS affiliate; WRUT-TV, a 24-hour weather, news and sports channel; wuft.org; and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.