Friday, July 16, 2010

PARTLY CLOUDY is moving . . .

Please look for us at our new home on Word Press, whcih you can find here. Thanks as always for your support and I look forward to continuing our work at the new site.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Obama's Closed Meeting on Open Government???

In the "I can't make this stuff up" department, the Obama administration, having previously pledged to be the most "transparent" administration in history, will be conducting a workshop for government agencies concerning their obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The meeting is closed to the public.

The AP/Google News report is here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

City of Venice Ordered to Pay $703,500 in Attorneys Fees

The City of Venice has been ordered to pay Anthony Lorenzo's attorneys a combined $703,449.50 in attorneys fees to two law firms for the recently concluded public records litigation. The Court's order, issued Friday September 25th, is here.

The fee award was substantially less than the $2,000,000 plus that the plaintiffs' attorneys had requested. Attorney Andrea Mogensen was awarded $343,680 or about 82% of the $420,286 worth of time that she claimed to have devoted to the case. The Carlton Fields firm, who joined Mogensen as co-counsel after the case was filed, was awarded $359,769.50 or about 85% of the $422,285 that it logged in time on the matter in a mere five months.

The Court denied the attorneys' request for a multiplier, or "enhancement," of the fee that would have pushed the amount well into the millions. The Court also denied the attorneys' request to be paid for the time they spend litigating with the City over the amount of fees to which they were entitled, which likely means that Mogensen and Carlton Fields will have to pay the attorney who represented them in the fee litigation out of their respective awards. Both rulings are sound and supported by applicable Florida law.

The order also awarded Lorenzo's attorneys about $42,000 in court costs, putting the City's total obligation at close to $750,000.

Media coverage can be found here, here and here.

More analysis to follow . . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lorenzo v. City of Venice Expert Attorneys Fees Testimony

Your humble servant testified earlier this week as an expert on behalf of the City of Venice in the attorneys fees hearing arising out of the recent public records and sunshine litigation over the City's email practices and related matters. The Charlotte Sun article is here. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune coverage is here.

Judge Bennett has the matter under advisement, but from what I heard and saw in the courtroom, I don't expect him to take very long to render a decision. Until his decision issues, however, I will refrain from making any further observations on the proceedings.

I'll post the order as soon as it comes out and then share some thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PSC Suspends Text Messaging After Criticism

The Florida Public Service Commission has suspended the use of text messages on all agency-issued Blackberries and phones after recent criticism that such messages were not be stored in accordance with the public records law. Miami Herald article is here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NCAA vs. Chapter 119 . . .

My litigation schedule has been keeping me away from blogging for too long, a condition that may well continue for a while. But this one is too good to pass up: is the NCAA, the governing body for major collegiate athletics, subject to Florida's public records laws? A circuit judge in Tallahassee will decide soon, as reported here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nonpayment of Fees for Public Records May Preclude Subsequent Requests

In Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, the Fourth District considered a case in which Lozman had requested records from the City but then failed to pay the undisputed charges of $233.50. Because he failed to pay, the City never furnished the records to him. When he sought additional records, the City refused to comply until Lozman paid the amount due for the previous records request.

Lozman sued for a writ of mandamus, contending that the City's refusal to supply the records was a violation of the public records law. As stated by the Fourth District, the only issue in the case was "whether the City could require him to pay the past due fees before complying with his subsequent requests."

That question was not directly answered by the opinion. Rather, the Fourth District found that Chapter 119 "does not require the City to do any more than what it did in this case" and denied the petition for writ of mandamus.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunshine & Public Records Seminar in Tampa April 21, 2009

The Lorman Education Services seminar entitled "What You Need to Know About Public Records and Open Meetings" is scheduled to be held in Tampa on April 21, 2009. Here's all the details, the agenda and the distinguished faculty.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Venice Email Shenanigans

I haven't devoted much time to chronicling the ongoing litigation involving the City of Venice and its email, but the Sarasota Herald Tribune has done an excellent job of it. See selected articles here, here, here, here and here. There's plenty more on the Herald's website. The coverage has been comprehensive and is likely to garner a Pulitzer nomination.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New York Times Contemplates the Spectre of Too Much Sunshine . . . Hell Reportedly Frozen Over

Although I try to limit this blog to matters specifically relating to Florida's open government laws -- and we have more than enough material -- some things are just too good to let pass by without comment.

In this article, the New York Times laments that, "information collected through disclosure laws intended to increase the transparency of the political process, magnified by the powerful lens of the Web, may be undermining the same democratic values that the regulations were to promote." In other words, now that all that information we demanded public access to is actually accessible to the public, it might not be such a good idea.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Surprise Here - Commission's Report Being Favorably Received by the Media

Given that the numerous recommendations in the Final Report of the Commission on Open Government Reform lean almost entirely towards more "openness," it's no surpirse that the report is being favorably received by the media. The St. Pete Times' editorial from this morning's paper appears here.

"Reforming Florida's Open Government Laws in the 21st Century" . . .

is the title of the just-issued Final Report of the Commission on Open Government Reform, which is available here.

The Final Report is quite lengthy (about 200 pages) and contains numerous recommendations that will no doubt promptly be implemented by the Governor, to the extent he is able to do so unilaterally by Executive Order or otherwise, and by the legislature in the next session.

I'll be posting separately on specific issues and recommendations covered in the Final Report.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nothing to Get Me Back in Blog Mode . . .

. . . like a $15,000,000 service charge for a public records request!

To see how Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's office calculated that fee for requests for her official emails, check out this article from MSNBC.

Hope to back to blogging public records issues more regularly some time soon. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Service Charge for Records May Include Salary Plus Benefits

In this case from the Second DCA, the court examined the legislative history of the provisions of Ch. 119 that authorize agencies to charge for "extensive" clerical or supervisory time required to respond to public records requests and decided that such a charge may be based upon the salary plus benefits of the agency employees whose time is required to respond to such requests.

The court also expressly approved the practice of requiring an advance deposit before the agency undertakes the work necessary to respond to a records request.

The opinion tacitly approves of an agency rule or policy that defines "extensive" for these purposes as any request requiring more than 15 minutes of the agency's time to respond to it and also clarifies and confirms that the service charge applies irrespective of whether the request is for copies of records or merely for inspection.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

When is a "Notice of Claim" not a Part of a "Claims File"?

Why, when the Attorney General doesn't want to have to say that the notice of claim is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Law.

In AGO 2007-47, the Attorney General considered a seemingly simple question: Is the notice of claim required under Fla. Sta. §768.28 as a condition precedent to a tort suit against an agency exempt from disclosure under Fla. Stat. §768.16, which exempts "claims files" from the Public Records Law?

Anybody who sues or defends agencies in Florida is familiar with the notice of claim required under the waiver of sovereign immunity statute. Presumably, such a notice of claim upon receipt by an agency prompts the creation of a file related to the claim . . . commonly referred to as a "claims file." The first logical piece of paper that goes into the claims file is, of course, the notice of claim.

For some reason, the Attorney General struggled with the notion that "claims file" must necessarily include the things in the claims file . . . like the notice of claim. You really have to read this one for yourself.

Property Owners Association Exercising Delegated Authority

In AGO 2007-44, the Attorney General explained that a property owners association was subject to operation under the Sunshine Law when it was performing duties delegated to it by a Municipal Services Taxing Unit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Elected Officials Exchanging Documents . . .

is no problem, according to the Attorney General, as long as they don't comment on or respond to the documents sent to them by other members of the same board. See AGO 2007-35.