FAF Letter to Rep. Watson Re: HB 261 Exemption/Elder Abuse Fatality Review Teams

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3 January 2018
The Honorable Barbara Watson
Florida House of Representatives
402 South Monroe Street, Room 1003, The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

Re: HB 261 Exemption/Elder Abuse Fatality Review Teams

Dear Representative Watson:

We are writing to express some concerns regarding HB 261, which creates public record and open meeting exemptions for elder abuse fatality review teams.

While not opposed to the legislation, Representative Watson, we are concerned by the lack of oversight. Specifically, lines 34–37 provide an exemption for portions of team meetings at which confidential and exempt information is discussed. There is absolutely no requirement that those closed portions of meetings be recorded. Without some record of the teams’ discussions that occur behind closed doors, the public has no assurance that the teams are limiting themselves to the conversations they are allowed to have.

Therefore, we suggest that HB 261 be amended to require that the closed portions of team meetings be recorded and that those recordings be made public at some specific point in time. All exempt information in those recordings would be protected under the public record exemption.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns, Representative Watson. If you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance in drafting the suggested amendment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Barbara A. Petersen, President

Cc: The Honorable Richard Corcoran, Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
Jon Kaney, General Counsel, First Amendment Foundation
Sam Morley, General Counsel, Florida Press Association
Gil Thelen, Executive Director, Florida Society of News Editors

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