February 9, 2017
The Florida First Amendment Foundation has awarded Brevard County Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis its top award for his battle with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast to ensure the EDC complied with Florida’s public records laws.
The Tallahassee-based foundation cited Ellis’ “tenacious struggle to obtain records” from the EDC in giving him the Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award.
Ellis said the award is “very much appreciated,” since the First Amendment Foundation “is all about open public records.”
Ellis’ records request centered on the EDC’s dealings with BlueWare, a document-scanning company, that was the focus of a political-corruption case involving an $8.52 million contract that it received in 2012 from then-Brevard Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman to scan court documents. Among the allegations: BlueWare illegally received the contract in return for contributions to Needelman’s unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign against Ellis. The criminal cases against Needelman and two others are pending.
Ellis said he believes his public records case involving the EDC and BlueWare is making other economic development agencies in Florida think twice before withholding records from the public.