Florida’s taxpayers are being taken advantage of by profiteering individuals abusing the state’s public records laws for personal and financial gain, and by public records requests that serve no legitimate public interest other than harassing public agencies. This misuse of the Public Records Act costs taxpayers money and makes government less efficient, according to a new report by Florida TaxWatch.
Florida’s public records laws have been acknowledged as a national model for transparency and access. But loopholes allow abuses in pursuit of punishing government and harming taxpayers. This insidious use of the state’s public records laws can waste public taxpayer money to fend off a tidal wave of harassing public records requests that overwhelm many public offices.
“It is an assault on all Floridians when access to public records is abused. The Sunshine State is falling victim to the predatory practice of individuals filing frivolous and malicious public records requests and then suing for non-compliance, ostensibly to obtain cash settlements or to prevent government from functioning effectively,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro. “We hope that the Legislature will use this report to ensure our statutes curb these frivolous and malicious lawsuits while ensuring that the public records process remains transparent and accessible to the public and the media.”
The Florida TaxWatch analysis offers numerous options to curb predatory use of the state’s public records laws, including educating government employees on the public records laws, creating a requirement to give notice to an agency of the intent to sue prior to civil litigation and permitting public agencies to recover their attorney fees and related costs if the court determines that the public records request is frivolous or serves no legitimate public purpose or interest.
Read the report here.