Citizens and elected officials charged hundreds of dollars for public records
More exemptions to the Florida public records law that make government records secret
Watchdog City and the First Amendment Foundation would like to cordially invite you to attend and participate at a Town Hall meeting on open government.
Erosion of access to public records is emerging as a significant issue locally and at the state and national levels. Although significant amounts of public records are available online, public records that shed light on government decisions and the exercise of power behind the scenes are becoming increasingly difficult to get for members of the public and press. Increasingly, members of the public and elected officials are encountering high public records fees at the state and local levels.
This non-partisan issue affects citizens, candidates for office, elected officials, businesses and the press.
Watchdog City is hosting this Town Hall forum on open government with the First Amendment Foundation and in partnership with local community organizations including Florida SouthWestern State College, East Naples Civic Association, Naples Press Club, Naples Better Government Committee, Collier Citizens Council, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Collier County and North Naples Church. Experts and journalists will speak and take questions from the audience.
The event is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 5, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at North Naples Church located at 6000 Goodlette Road North, north of Pine Ridge Road.
Expert panelists are:
Barbara Petersen, who is considered a leading state and national public records and open government activist. Petersen is president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation and advocates for access to government meetings and public records around the state. Petersen and the Florida First Amendment Foundation have been at the forefront of some of the state’s most important public records lawsuits in the past 20 years. An attorney, she trains journalists, citizens and public employees on open government and public records and monitors legislative activity during the annual session. She currently sits on the board of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and is the president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. Petersen served as chair of Florida’s Commission on Open Government Reform. In 2013, Petersen was appointed by Florida Senate President Don Gaetz to the User Experience Task Force which reviewed the state’s transparency websites and made recommendations for improvement. Petersen will talk about proposals in Tallahassee that weaken our right of access and the status of a reform bill that would have strengthened the public records law.
Gina Edwards, who is a national award-winning investigative reporter who has been recognized statewide for her reporting at WatchdogCity.com on public records and open government issues. Edwards is a plaintiff in a lawsuit of statewide importance that challenges high public records fees charged by Collier Clerks of Courts for local government documents. Edwards won a favorable decision at trial in the suit Naples City Desk v. Collier Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock in June. Brock has appealed and the case is currently pending before the Second District Court of Appeals. State and national media organizations are watching the lawsuit closely. In 2013, Edwards was awarded a First Place Freedom of Information Award by the Florida Press Club and a Second Place First Amendment Award for her stories “Secret Deals, Public Money” on private equity and hedge fund investments held by the Florida pension fund. Recently, Edwards was awarded a Second Place 2014 Florida Press Club Freedom of Information Award for her stories “Elected auditor Brock sics law enforcement on 2012 political challenger over housing grant” and “The Audit Files.”Edwards competed against the largest newspapers in the state for these honors. In Naples, Edwards is known for her reporting on the Stadium Naples public corruption investigation and for covering local government, financial crime, housing and development. Edwards will speak about public records access and fee issues at the county and city levels.
Amy Tardif, who is the chair of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the largest professional organization for electronic journalists in the world. Tardif is the news director and station manager at WGCU-FM in Fort Myers. Tardif is the fourth woman to lead the 67-year-old RTDNA and is the first female radio news director to do so. Nationally, RTDNA has been fighting for press access related to national security and intelligence issues and opposing policies by the Obama administration that put draconian restrictions on employees related to press interaction. Tardif’s program, Lucia’s Letter, on human trafficking received a coveted Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a gold medal from the New York Festivals and 1st place for Best Documentary from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. Tardif will talk about open government and access challenges facing journalists at the national level.
For more information, contact Watchdog City at 239-449-8045