October 11, 2011 | 6:48am
Here in Florida, we have a broad array of sunshine laws designed to promote open government. Local governments routinely have to disclose information simply because citizens ask for it. But apparently there's one thing that can clamp the mouths of local officials for good: a private prison contractor asking nicely.
Bill Di Scipio is a Southwest Ranches resident who has vocally opposed the planned construction of an 1,800-bed immigrant detention facility that would be run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison contractor. At a Town Council meeting on September 22, he asked why council members had told him they weren't allowed to discuss the facility. (Read about another council member's unusual response
to his request.)
After the public comment period, Vice Mayor Freddy Fisikelli asked the town's longtime lawyer, Keith Poliakoff, for an explanation.
Fisikelli: Keith... explain to him why we're doing the cone of silence?
Poliakoff: To answer your question, the request for the council to not get into anything until something is, uh, known was requested by a combination of CCA and Homeland Security. At this point, there's nothing new, there's no contract proposal, there's no formal award, there's no IGA (intergovernmental agreement), there's nothing. There's nothing new on that, one iota.
Fisikelli: So it's not the town that the cone of silence, it's the people we're dealing with.
Poliakoff: We've been asked by Homeland Security and CCA.
Fiskielli: That's what I think we need to let the people know.
Poliakoff: But there's nothing new.
Well, we wouldn't be able to confirm that, since the request of a notoriously secretive government agency and a publicly traded corporation
is enough to make a town's lawyer advise council members not to speak. That was the end of CCA discussion for the evening.
We have a call out to Poliakoff for more information on the nature and legal weight of this "request" and will update if he responds.
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