August 25, 2016 – Miami Herald
by Mary Ellen Klas
If you want to keep a low profile, don’t disagree with the South Florida Water Management District, or ask for its email list.
That’s what Lisa Interlandi, a lawyer with the nonprofit Everglades Law Center, and other environmental advocates have learned in the last few months as they have become the target of email blasts by the state agency.
The latest email was issued Monday to the more than 5,000 addresses on the district’s email list. With a subject head labeled “Your privacy,” the agency gave out Interlandi’s email address and then announced she had done what anyone in Florida is entitled to do: submit a records request seeking SFWMD’s email distribution list.
“As you may know, such email lists and addresses are commercial commodities that are often bought and sold,” the agency wrote. It cited no examples. “The law prohibits SFWMD from asking about the intended use for the information. Any concern you may have about a potential invasion of privacy is understandable.”
Interlandi said the suggestion that she wanted to sell the list was “absurd.”
“It’s a public record. It has no value. Anyone who asks for it can get it for free,” she said. Instead, she said she wanted the list after watching the water management district increasingly use hostile news releases to target critics of the agency and she thought having the list could be helpful if anyone wanted to “counter the attacks.”
Randy Smith, spokesman for the agency, said it never before had “received a mass public records demand for an email address list” and called the request “completely out of the ordinary.”
“Persons having entrusted their email addresses to the state have every right to know that their information has been obtained by a third party without their consent,” he said.
Most other state agencies include a standard disclosure on the bottom of agency emails reminding people that Florida has a broad public records law and most written communication to or from state officials regarding state business — including all emails — is considered a public record.
The SFWMD, which is funded by state and local tax dollars and is considered a state agency, does not include such a disclosure when it sends email. Smith did not answer why. [READ MORE]