First Amendment Foundation calls Mike Fasano’s conditions on public record access ‘highly inappropriate,’ illegal

Mike-Fasano-edit

Mike Fasano took to social media last week to “shame” GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting for having the audacity to request public personnel records.

In doing so, the Pasco County Tax Collector — recognized with the Friend of the First Amendment award only last year — disappointed a number of people, including several of his friends.

But in the eyes of First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Petersen, Fasano is not only doing something “highly inappropriate” — he is also breaking the law.

“The response you received to your public records request is so wrong in so many ways,” Petersen said Friday in an email to Data Targeting obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, “I hardly know where to start.”

Under Florida law, Peterson said, a government agency — such as the Pasco County Tax Collector’s office — “cannot impose any barriers or conditions to your right or access that operate to restrict or circumvent that right.”

This means all agency policies must comply with state law.

Peterson is especially aggrieved by certain conditions set by Fasano’s office to provide the requested records.

“I take serious exception to the tax collector’s ‘practice’ that a person seeking access to a personnel file must come to the tax collector’s office to inspect that record in the company of both the record custodian and the employee whose record has been requested,” she writes. “Having the employee in the room as you inspect the employee’s personnel record creates a chilling effect that unlawfully interferes with your constitutional right of access to all nonexempt public records.”

In addition, Peterson notes in the email that a “flat-out refusal” to provide the requested records by either email or mail is a direct violation of Florida’s public records law.

“Section 119.07(1), F.S., specifically states ‘the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person.'”

Florida courts have held that a custodial agency must provide copies of requested records, she adds.

“Clearly, then, the Pasco County tax collector must provide you — by mail or email — a redacted copy of the personnel file you have requested.” Requiring data targeting representatives to inspect the records with the employee in the room is, in Peterson’s opinion, “a violation of your constitutional and statutory right of access to public records.”

As FloridaPolitics.com noted last week, it’s none of Fasano’s business who accesses public records. Adding hurdles to those wanting to access records just makes an already bad situation infinitely worse.

FAF

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



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