March 14, 2018
Florida carries a reputation for having some of the most broad and open public records laws in the country. These laws are designed to protect your right to inspect government information at a reasonable price. But what happens when knowing about your new babysitter’s criminal past is unaffordable, or a request about inspections at your daughter’s school take weeks or months to complete? It turns out not much at all.
Buddy Holland knows the system is flawed. The Duval County property appraiser has worked in local government for 18 years, and he said colleagues have told him they won’t look at requests until the third time they’re made. The reason is simple: no one is watching them.
The state lacks an enforcement mechanism for its well-intentioned law, which WUFT News explored last year in “Sunshine Lost.” This year WUFT News spent six months investigating whether Holland is right and county agencies are abusing this lack of oversight.
“Public records? If it’s important they’ll request it at least three times.”
In Florida, any person can request a record from a state or county agency, such as court record or police report. These requests can be made in person or online. Agencies then provide an estimate of the cost and a requestor can choose whether to pay for the request. WUFT News made requests to county and state agencies across the state asking for records of these transactions and the fees associated with them. [READ MORE]