Predatory Public Records Requests
The right of Floridians to access information about how they are being governed is guaranteed in article I, Section 24, of the Florida Constitution. This unfettered access to public records promotes transparency and accountability, and provides Floridians an opportunity to better understand how and why policy decisions that affect them are made. a better educated citizenry is more capable of engaging and communicating with public officials, the end result of which is better policy decisions. This, Florida TaxWatch thinks, is a good thing.
In its 36-year history, Florida TaxWatch has issued numerous research reports containing recommendations to make government more transparent and more accountable. Most recently, Florida TaxWatch issued a report containing recommendations to improve the oversight and accountability of the Florida Municipal Power agency (FMPA), and to make the activities of the FMPA more transparent to the taxpayers.
It is not a good thing, however, when access to public records is abused. Public agencies, and businesses under contract with public agencies, are falling victim to the predatory practice of individuals filing numerous and vague public records requests and then suing for non-compliance, ostensibly to obtain cash settlements or to prevent government from functioning effectively. Others file public records requests with the intent of preventing government from functioning effectively by overburdening staff. In this report, TaxWatch examines the impact of these predatory practices on public and private entities and makes recommendations to stem this misuse of the public records law.
It should be expressly clear and understood that TaxWatch’s recommendations are intended solely to stem this misuse of the public records laws and are in no way intended to limit taxpayers’ access to public records or to infringe upon the taxpayers’ right to petition their government.