The Florida Times-Union by Ben Conarck
July 19, 2017
Sheriff Mike Williams on Wednesday defended his office from criticism over a $314,000 public records cost estimate issued to the family of a pedestrian killed by a troubled cop earlier this week, saying the cost was accurate but the communication could have been better.
Sitting in his third-floor office, Williams reiterated the explanation his staff gave the Times-Union on Tuesday evening. The vast majority of the cost, the sheriff said, came from two broader items included in the request that his office said would have necessitated his staff searching every Internal Affairs record from the last 10 years.
Nonetheless, Williams conceded that the Sheriff’s Office could have done a better job of communicating with John M. Phillips, the attorney who requested the records on behalf of Blane Land’s estate.
“Lesson learned,” Williams said. “Communication would have been huge early on.”
Williams spoke reassuringly at the press conference about his personal relationship with Phillips, adding that the two of them had spoken about it since the news broke. About four hours later, the attorney pushed back.
“First, neither I nor my office has ever gotten a phone call, a single record or any itemization despite specific falsehoods to the contrary relayed by [the Sheriff’s Office],” Phillips said in a statement. “It is day 35.”
The attorney said that the sheriff called him right before the press conference on his cell phone while he traveling out-of-town. The Sheriff’s Office gave the media information on its cost breakdown before they gave it to his office, he added.
At the press conference, Williams said his office should have reached out to Phillips earlier, and that the Public Records Unit sent the $300,000-plus estimate anticipating that Phillips would counter with a narrower request.
“We expect him to come back and say, ‘That’s crazy,’” Williams said. [READ MORE]