Price Tag Impedes Access to Florida Public Records
|The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information.|
Florida has long been known as a leader in the nation for accessibility to public records and meetings. But, one group says the governor’s staff is making it difficult to ask for records.
One way to impede access to public records is charging high fees and that’s the result of Gov. Rick Scott’s new “cost recovery policy” according to Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation,
Petersen was charged a whopping $780 for requesting just one week’s worth of emails from the governor’s communications director, Brian Burgess. And it took months to process her request.
Yet, similar requests of the Attorney General and Agricultural Commissioner were free and returned within two weeks. The CFO responded in a timely manner and charged a little over $10 for two weeks worth of emails from his communications director.
Petersen said the governor’s reasoning behind his new “cost recovery policy” is that the taxpayers should not bear the cost of providing public records.
“But, the taxpayer has already provided the cost. We’re paying the salary of the people creating those records. And we should have some opportunity for oversight,” Petersen said. “And to pay again for them and to pay fees that I think most people would agree are fairly excessive, that’s something I think the governor should reconsider.”
Part of the problem is that many on Scott’s staff use their personal email accounts to do public business. So, Petersen got charged with Burgess’ rate of about $70 an hour to sort through his personal account for public emails.
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