[Updated with quote from a source who knows Rothstein, after the jump.]
Fort Lauderdale residents pay for Police Chief Frank Adderley's cell phone calls. And so Fort Lauderdale residents are entitled to look at his cell phone bills, especially in light of his having been spotted with Scott Rothstein at the scene of a August car accident that involved Rothstein's former friend.
It seems obvious, but the Sun-Sentinel's Brittany Wallman reported in her article today that the police department refused her request. I dropped her an email this morning about the snafu, and she recently posted an update.
From her post at Broward Politics:
I contacted Alexis Lambert, the state's Sunshine Law lawyer, since these records are made "in connection with the transaction of official business'' (the definition of public records,) and the public is paying for the calls and has a right to know. She just advised that the AG's office hasn't opined on this topic. It's not spelled out in state law, either.
Maybe because it's so obvious. The public pays. The public gets.
Apparently, the bills go to Adderley, not to the city. And City Attorney Harry Stewart is currently mulling over whether the bills are a public record.
But this shouldn't be that complicated.
Unless, of course, those records are part of a pending Internal Affairs investigation.
Update: Another post by Wallman, here, in which Stewart rules against qualifying Adderley's phone bill as a public record.
But take a glance at Chapter 119 of Florida Statutes defines a public record as "documents... made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency."
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That sure sounds like it covers a cell phone bill of a chief who gets a portion of it paid through an allowance given him by the city.
But I just had a conversation with a source who knows a bunch of Fort Lauderdale cops and Scott Rothstein. He tells me that the city pays a flat, monthly allowance toward the cell phone expenses incurred by all the police supervisors, meaning that if Adderley's are public record, then so are theirs. And since there's mingling of their public work and private lives on those cell phone records, that seems a tad invasive.
I've been unable to reach the department's spokesman to confirm that. [UPDATED: Police Spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa just confirmed.] Even if it's true, it begs the question of why the department doesn't just buy and distribute cell phones to their supervisors with the instruction that they're to be used only for professional purposes and the reminder that the bills are public record.
All this fuss may be for naught. According to the source, Adderley and Rothstein were only the most casual acquaintances. The source never saw Adderley at Rothstein's box at Landshark Stadium, nor any of the other places he took his closest friends. "Scott was not connected to him at all," says the source. "When they saw each other, it was a handshake, maybe a pat on the back. There was no closeness."