How a government agency is trying to stop residents demanding records

My Palm Beach Post by Kimberly Miller

March 23, 2018

The public steward of South Florida’s water supply is taking extreme measures to keep secret the reasons behind a multimillion-dollar settlement while embroiling more than a dozen unwitting citizens in a battle over public records.

South Florida Water Management District officials hired two private legal teams with taxpayer money to fight the release of a transcript from an August meeting regarding a 50-year deal with the billionaire-backed mining company Lake Point Restoration.

The months-long litigious affair began with a simple public records request under Florida’s decades-old Sunshine Law — a statute heralded nationwide as a tool to keep governments honest.

Instead of a traditional response of yes or no, the district sued the non-profit agency that made the request. The lawsuit triggered a cascade of identical demands from disgruntled soccer moms, retirees, activists and the titan of Treasure Coast environmentalism, Maggy Hurchalla.

Now the district wants the non-profit agency and Hurchalla to hand over all of their Lake Point-related communications and personal emails to and from the 16 other residents who requested the same documents. The idea is to find out if they were trying to trick the district into a violation of the Sunshine Law rather than simply trying to hold the agency accountable.[READ MORE]

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