Sarasota, Fla. Montessori school under investigation for alleged Sunshine Law violation

The state attorney's office is now investigating an alleged sunshine law violation at a Suncoast charter school.

This follows an increasingly tense dispute between the school and parents of a former student.

Island Village Montessori School is a remote campus off Clark road. For three years, Jennifer and Jeffrey Buck–parents of 2nd grader Cooper Buck–say they poured time and energy into the school.


Access To Public Records In Florida May Change. Why You Should Care About It?

Florida allows some of the easiest access to government records and meetings of any state in the country under the state's Sunshine Laws.

People have a right to access state documents like minutes from meetings between government officials, foster care case files and environmental studies. Government meetings for the most part are open to the public for anyone to attend.

This is obviously helpful to reporters, lawyers and investigators, but these records are available to anyone who requests them.


Fl.: Senate advances bill to weaken citizens’ leverage in public records disputes

A bill that attempts to flush out serial abusers of Florida’s public records law was tightened Monday to appeal to Sunshine Law advocates, but the groups said the changes don’t go far enough to protect the public.

The bill, SB 80 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would give judges more discretion in deciding whether or not to award attorneys fees in public-records lawsuits.

“What I’m trying to do here is reach some kind of compromise,” he said.


Florida reporters to see how lawmakers stand on open records

Because of Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, the state's records and meetings are more accessible than in most states. But the Legislature has, year in and year out, instituted, or considered instituting, numerous exemptions. The body, on average, imposes up to a dozen a year; the grand total, as of early February, was 1,119.


Fla.: Judges look at Sunshine Law in workers’ comp case

An appeals court weighed arguments Wednesday about whether Florida's Sunshine Law was violated before regulators last year approved a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal did not issue a ruling Wednesday. But its decision will have high stakes: A Leon County circuit judge said in November that the rate increase should be rejected because of Sunshine Law violations.


Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement investigates PTC cellphones for missing public records

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents have taken possession of seven Public Transportation Commission cellphones as it steps up an investigation into whether public records were deliberately deleted from the devices.

The phones were used by PTC staffers, including former executive director Kyle Cockream.

Billing records show Cockream sent text messages to the owner of a local taxicab firm and PTC board members before Sept. 2.


Attorney fees proposal could hurt access to Florida public records, watchdogs say

State senators on Tuesday gave their first approval to legislation that open government advocates say threatens to roll back access to public records in Florida.

The bill (SB 80) would let judges decide whether or not to force government agencies to pay attorney fees when they illegally block access to records. Current law requires that agencies pay for the lawyers of members of the public who successfully sue them over records.


Ratings agency warns in brief against ‘dramatic expansion’ of Florida’s Sunshine Law

State regulators and an organization that proposes workers’ compensation coverage rates in Florida defended themselves in pleadings to a state appeals court this week, seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that they had violated open-government laws.

Attorneys for the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, submitted their arguments in a brief filed Wednesday with the 1st District Court of Appeal. The state office of Insurance Regulation is also a party to the suit, filed by Miami workers’ compensation attorney James Fee.


Florida: Open government activists back legal challenge to worker’s comp rate increase

A leading open-government advocate offered strong support Monday for a legal challenge to a proposed workers’ compensation insurance premium increase of nearly 20 percent.

“I think he’s got a cause of action,” First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Peterson said of Miami attorney James Fee, who is challenging the rate hike on open-government grounds. Continue…