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Government In The Shade

Cal Deal's public information request is getting a little more interesting. Quick primer: The city is charging Deal some cash because his request for some Cindi Hutchinson emails would take an IT person -- who is paid $57 an hour -- a half hour to find them.

Deal, who figured the request would entail a quick search and forwarding of the emails in question, asked the city how "extensive" is defined. Here's the reply:

From: "Karen Becker" Date: April 30, 2008 2:40:43 PM EDT To: "Cal Deal" Cc: "DJ Williams-Persad" , "Karen Becker" Subject: RE: emails New Public Records Request

Dear Mr. Deal: In response to your question below, please know that the Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual (2008 Edition), provides:

Section 119.07(4)(d), F.S., does not contain a definition of the term "extensive." In 1991, a divided First District Court of Appeal upheld a hearing officer’s order rejecting an inmate challenge to a Department of Corrections rule that defined "extensive" for purposes of the special service charge. Florida Institutional Legal Services, Inc. v. Florida Department of Corrections, 579 So. 2d 267 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991), review denied, 592 So. 2d 680 (Fla. 1991). The agency rule defined "extensive" to mean that it would take more than 15 minutes to locate, review for confidential information, copy and refile the requested material. The court agreed with the hearing office that the burden was on the challenger to show that the administrative rule was invalid under Ch. 120, F.S., and the record did not indicate that the officer’s ruling was "clearly erroneous" in this case.

Half-hour is a significant amount of staff time and the City has consistently charged a special service charge for e-mail searches that take this amount of time. The charge is not automatically imposed but is based on actual IT estimated staff time based on the information provided by the requestor. Please let us know if you would like to proceed.

Fifteen minutes is "extensive"? Does that include a cigarette break?

This is another clear example of the way Florida governments get around the spirit and intent of Sunshine Law -- and often manage to stay out of view of the public's prying eyes.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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