Pensacola News Journal by Jim Little
March 9, 2021
Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill must hand over Facebook messages that he sought to keep private after a federal magistrate judge ruled Friday that they are indeed public records.
The ruling is the latest development in an ongoing public records lawsuit brought by Pensacola businessman David Bear against Underhill and Escambia County.
Bear made multiple public records requests in 2019 for Underhill’s Facebook messages related to county business. The county and Underhill never fully complied with the records request, so Bear sued in October 2019.
Underhill has criticized Bear and his family for donating to political candidates in Escambia County and has often taken to social media to lob accusations of undue influence in county politics. Underhill also essentially shut down the comment section of his public Facebook page, arguing he was using it as a one-way communication tool.
Bear’s lawsuit alleges the county and Underhill’s withholding of the records and hiding and blocking of comments on his Facebook page violates Florida public records law as well as Bear’s constitutional rights.