WLRN by ALEJANDRA MARTINEZ
October 8, 2018
In mid-September, the parents of two children killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School criticized a number of public agencies for failing to give them access to public records, such as meeting minutes, e-mails and police training exercise information related to the shooting.
They called into question Florida’s “Sunshine Law,” designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida.
The law gives citizens the basic right to access to any discussion of public business between two or more members of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies.
On Tuesday, South Florida residents can learn about their right to access public records at an event at Broward College‘s Bailey Hall, hosted by the First Amendment Foundation. It will feature Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen, two of South Florida’s most well-known journalists, and will be introduced by the Sun Sentinel’s Rosemary O’Hara and moderated by WLRN’s Tom Hudson.
Barbara Peterson, the president of the First Amendment Foundation, joined Sundial Monday.
WLRN: What makes Florida’s Sunshine Law unique compared to other states?
Peterson: We have one of the oldest laws in the country. Our public records law codified in 1909 and our open meetings law was enacted in 1968. We are one of only six states in the country that have a specific constitutional right of access to the records and meetings of our government. And what is really important, in Florida a custodian of public records can deny your public records request or the school board can deny your participation in a school board meeting only if they have specific statutory authority. Only the legislature can create exceptions to our law, which means there’s no balancing of interest by local or state government.