Judge hears arguments in FIU bridge collapse records case

Miami Hearld by Elizabeth Koh

July 31, 2018

A Leon County circuit court judge will soon decide if federal law bars the state from releasing certain records that might reveal more about the Florida International University bridge collapse that killed six people this March.

Judge Kevin J. Carroll heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit over the records, which the Miami Herald filed in May after months of trying to obtain documents regarding the collapse. The requested records include meeting minutes, emails and other documents relating to the bridge’s design and construction.

Though the state has said the records are public under Florida law, it argued that it lost the right to share those records with the news media when it became a party to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation days after the bridge failed. The state Department of Transportation filed a motion to dismiss the suit and cited a federal regulation that shields documents relating to an NTSB investigation, saying it supersedes state statute. The NTSB, which is still investigating the collapse of the 950-ton bridge, has ordered the state agency not to release documents from after Feb. 19.

FIU and the city of Sweetwater, which was also involved in the project, have also cited the ongoing NTSB investigation as an exception to the state’s public records law. The parties have released records to the media earlier than the cut-off date.

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