Shady Bob’s Public Records Game

secrets and lies

Update2That little Brian Bradley fellow got back to me..  Turns out the county doesn’t have the audited financials from SUFA and SHARK.  That’s about what I expected.  Fortunately, I found other information sources, which tend to support the idea that we’re being lied to and ripped off while the State Attorney turns a blind eye.  The county did find FKSPCA’s 2016 statements but they are almost a year late.  I also got the reports from FloridaKeys.com.  I’ll be digging through those as time allows.

Update:  FloridaKeys.com is required by contract to submit monthly reports.  I requested those from the county for 2017.  I also repeated my request for the missing financial statements from the animal shelter operators. 

As you might recall, I first asked for those financial statements at the end of December 2017.  We’re closing in on the end of April now.  Remember when Chris Weber of the State Attorneys Office went to bat for the county claiming the missing records were a “timing” issue and the county was “working on it”?  That was in early February.  How much more mileage do you think they’ll try to get out of that excuse?  The whole animal control situation looks more suspicious all the time, and the State Attorneys Office sure seems anxious to keep a lid on it for their buddies at the county.  Nice to have friends in high places I guess.

End of update. 

I managed to loosen Shady Bob’s grip on public records related to Monroe County’s contract with FloridaKeys.com.  FloridaKeys.com is part of the Cooke Communications group, which also owns the Key West Citizen.  The Citizen tends to spin, if not outright bury, unflattering stories about the County and their cronies.  I wondered why they’re so blatant about it.  Perhaps this contract explains it.  It’s the money, honey!

Clearly, the Citizen cannot serve two masters.  Their “journalism” appears to be an extension of their marketing business.  The revenue didn’t look all that compelling on the first superficial read through.  They get $35,000 per year for bandwidth and $125,000 per year for “special projects”.  But if you read a little closer you’ll see that FloridaKeys.com (ie. Cooke Communications) keeps all advertising revenue.  I don’t know what that amounts to yet, but I bet it’s a lot.  I’ll have to see what I can find out.

Now back to the subject at hand!  It looks like Shady Bob is trying to add a little structure to the public records process.  There’s a general email address now.  There’s a designated contact person, and a phone number.

I’ll give the “new-to-me” system a whirl and see how it goes.  But if I’m being honest, I think this is mostly about Shady Bob wanting to put some distance between himself and the county’s standard practice of stonewalling public records requests they don’t like.  You see, the shady one inserted himself into the process a while back, which was unwise.  A county attorney blatantly trying to impede the public’s right to know is not a good look.  I imagine the Florida Bar would not look kindly upon such behavior.

The county’s little public records blurb includes this bit of misleading verbiage.

Be advised that you may incur mandatory statutory fees by making a public records request.  A government agency that responds to a public records request is entitled to payment for the services rendered even if you advise the agency, after-the-fact, that you no longer wish to inspect or obtain copies of such records.

Mmmm….not exactly.

You don’t incur “mandatory statutory fees” simply by making a public records request.  That wording is obviously meant to discourage people from seeking public records.  The language of the statute says that a public entity “may” charge fees for public records, and sets limits on those fees.

In other words, the county is allowed, but not required, to charge fees for public records, and those fees are subject to limitations.  For most public records requests, fees would be minimal.  So minimal they’re not worth collecting – unless the objective is to increase the hassle factor.

I found a good write-up about public records fees at the Florida Attorney General’s website.  It lines up very well with the advice I received from attorneys over the years I worked at the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District.  No surprise – the District’s lawyers, being serious professionals, would often check in with the Attorney General’s Office to seek guidance and to make sure they were providing sound advice.  Shady Bob is not in the same league as those guys.  It seems his goal is to conceal information from the public without actually breaking the law.  Or at least without getting caught at it.

I’ve heard several reports recently about a particular county contractor threatening to charge exorbitant fees in response to public records requests.  They can’t do that.  There is “mandatory statutory verbiage” in their contract which outlines their legal obligations.  It is the county attorney’s job to make sure the contractor abides by the law.  In a normal county, the State Attorney’s Office might also be expected to step in, but that won’t happen in Monroe County, where the state attorney’s Chief “Investigator” acts like Shady Bob’s do-boy.

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This entry was posted in BOCC, Bubba System, Media, Monroe County, Public Records, State Attorney. Bookmark the permalink.

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