Most people are proud of their charitable donations and don't mind publicizing them a bit. But the people who run the city government of Hallandale Beach are not most people.
All of the donations that a city makes to charity are supposed to be available as public records, including who the checks went to, what accounts they came from, and the amounts of the contributions.
But when a Hallandale resident requested copies of the account statements showing contributions, there were thick black lines drawn over
several of the transactions, including one that could have shown money coming into the city's general fund. Names and amounts were all crossed out.
Local blogger Mike Butler first published the redacted transaction list on his website, changehallandale.com. Here's a copy:
Hallandale Beach Contributions
Yikes, you could hide an elephant behind that black line! The printout also doesn't show the starting balance of the funds, so it's impossible to deduce how much money the redacted costs were for.
Municipalities often redact public-records requests when the material contains sensitive information. Florida state law allows the redaction of social security numbers, driver's license numbers, information about victims of sexual abuse, medical information, and incriminating confessions by charged criminals. Quoth the Attorney General's Office:
An agency may not delete information from a public record in the absence of a statute providing for the confidentiality or exemption of such information.It seems unlikely that these expenditures -- or revenues -- would have fit any of those categories.
Dr. Judy Selz, a Hallandale resident, says she requested the information because she was "trying to make the city's contributions to charitable organizations accountable."
"I asked [City Attorney] David Jove if [these redactions] were appropriate," she says. "He told me that the city was not releasing the information." Jove has not returned a message left by New Times seeking explanation.
City Commissioner Keith London, often the sole dissenting voice on the commission, was present at a recent meeting when Selz raised the issue. He wrote later in his emailed summary: "Hallandale's charitable donations totaling over $525,000. To whom they are going? What are the criteria for receiving the monies? What accounts the monies are coming from?"
In fact, the charitable donations are spread over a number of accounts in the statement shown above, including the general fund and the law enforcement trust.
Selz says she also requested a copy of the city commissioners' travel budgets, which returned line items including a refrigerator, a microwave, and flower bouquets. When she questioned these expenses, she was told that she had been given the wrong information and was refunded the money she paid for the request.
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