Mike Deeson is pushing back on the city of Tampa’s official position regarding where finance director Sonya Little resides.
The former Channel 10 news investigative reporter filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of Tampa, claiming it is in violation of public records laws by denying him the home address of the city’s CFO, whom Deeson maintains resides outside of the city limits of Tampa. If that’s accurate, t would be a violation of the city charter.
Deeson says that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has always been aware of that, but circumvented that classification by listing Little as being the “interim” director for nearly six years, even though she’s served in his administration for almost the entire time he has been in office.
“The charter allows someone to be in an interim position,” Buckhorn told Deeson in December of 2016, “We are not violating the charter.”
Last year, the city said Little moved to Tampa. Deeson requested her address, but city officials objected, saying it was exempt from the state’s Sunshine Laws because she was a local government employee whose duties include revenue “collection and enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.
Deeson claims that the city only changed its tune about Little moving to Tampa after he began airing reports questioning Buckhorn about it. He says the address in unincorporated Hillsborough County remains her declared homestead property and carries the homestead tax exemption afforded under Florida law.
When asked to comment on Tuesday, City Attorney Sal Territo provided this statement: “Little is a Resident of the City of Tampa, and her address is exempt from public records because of her position as the Director of Revenue and Finance of the City of Tampa.”
Deeson exploded after he read those remarks.
“For the six years when the city blatantly and shamefully violated the city charter, it NEVER claimed that Sonya Little’s address was exempt from public disclosure,” the veteran journalist emailed Tuesday night. “After trampling on the charter for 6 years, the city is saying trust us to do the right thing. I don’t trust them and believe they only reason the city is trying this use this exemption is because it is concerned I will expose the fact that Ms. Little spends the majority of her time living at her home in the county rather than the address she claims is her permanent residence.”
“I think the Mayor, Ms Little and those who have participated in this overt sham for the past six years and now continue to deprive the citizens of their right to know about their government should be ashamed!”