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Florida Sunshine Law & Public Records Requirements Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force Meeting August 7, 2012. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater The Department of Financial Services. Parts of and Bases for Open Government. TWO PARTS:. TWO BASES:. Access to Public Meetings

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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater The Department of Financial Services

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Chief financial officer jeff atwater the department of financial services

Florida Sunshine Law &

Public Records


Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force Meeting

August 7, 2012

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater

The Department of Financial Services

Parts of and bases for open government

Parts of and Bases for Open Government



  • Access to Public Meetings

    • Reasonable Notice of a Public Meeting Required

    • Right to Attend a Public Meeting

  • Access to Public Records

    • Right to inspect a public record

    • Right to copy a public record

  • Statutory Basis:

    • Chapter 119, F.S.

    • Section 286.011, F.S.

  • Constitutional Basis:

    • Article I, s. 24(a), State Constitution

    • Article I, s. 24(b), State Constitution.

Public meetings

Public Meetings

  • Three Basic Requirements for Public Meetings

    • Reasonable notice of a meeting is required.

    • Meetings must be open to the public.

    • Minutes of the public meeting must be taken.

Public meetings1

Public Meetings

  • What is a Public Meeting?

    • Meetings of state or local collegial bodies “. . . at which official acts are to be taken…”

    • Florida courts expanded to include any gathering, whether formal or informal, of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss some issue on which foreseeable action will be taken by the board or commission. Hough v. Stembridge, 278 So.2d 288 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973)

    • Article I, s. 24(b), State Constitution includes meetings “. . .at which public business of such body is to be transacted or discussed. . . .”

Public meetings2


  • Telephones: The use of a telephone does not remove covered discussions from the requirements of the law. State v. Childers, No. 02-21939-MMC; 02-21940-MMB (Escambia Co. Ct. June 5, 2003), per curiam affirmed, 886 So.2d 229 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004); Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Sarasota, 48 So.3d, 755, 764 (Fla. 2010); City of Miami Beach v. Berns, 245 So.2d 38 (Fla. 1971)

  • Written Communications: Letters, e-mails, texting, chat, social media, are covered. AGO-89-39; AGO 09-19.

  • Conduct Outside of State: Covered. S. 286.011(3)(c), F.S.

Public meetings3


  • Use of staff or a nonboard member to act as liaison between, or to conduct de facto meeting of, board members are subject to meeting requirements. Blackford v. School Board of Orange County, 375 So.2d 578 (Fla. 5th DCA 1979)

  • Decision-making authority delegated to a single individual is subject to meeting requirements. IDS Properties, Inc. v. Town of Palm Beach, 279 So.2d 353, 359 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973); News-Press Publishing Company, Inc. v. Carlson, 410 So.2d 546, 547-8 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982); AGO 10-15; AGO-74-294

  • Information gathering or “fact-finding” delegated to individual or group generally not subject to meeting requirements . AGO 95-06

Public meetings4


  • Exemptions

    • Meetings are presumed open unless a statutory exemption applies.

    • ONLY the Legislature may create exemptions.

      • Security Exemption, s. 286.0113, F.S.

      • Litigation Exemption, s. 286.011(8), F.S.

    • If denied access to a meeting, the person denied may demand the statutory citation authorizing closure.

Public meetings5


  • Cure Meetings

    • No resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken at an open meeting.Section 286.011, F.S.

    • Action taken in violation of the Sunshine Law is void ab initio.Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 1974)

    • Action can be cured when the offending agency takes “independent final action in the sunshine.”Tolar v. School Board of Liberty County, 398 So. 2d 427, 429 (Fla. 1981)

Public meetings6


  • Sanctions

    • An unintentional violation: non-criminal infraction punishable by a fine up to $500.Section 286.011(3)(a), F.S.

    • A knowing violation: 2d degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 and/or a jail term of not more than 60 days.Section 286.011(3)(b), F.S.

    • Suspension or removal from office.Section 112.52(1), F.S.

    • Attorney’s fees and court costs.Sections 286.011(4) and (5), F.S.

Public records


  • Statutory right to inspect or copy a public record at reasonable time, under reasonable conditions, under supervision by custodian of records. Section 119.07(1), F.S.

  • Constitutional right of access to records made or received in connection with official business of a public body, officer, employee or person acting on their behalf. Article I, s. 24(a), State Constitution

Public records1


  • What is a public record?

  • “ . . . all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.”Section 119.011(11), F.S.

    • Any material prepared in connection with official agency business which is intended to “perpetuate, communicate, or formalize” knowledge of some type. Shevin v. Byron, Harless, Schaffer, Reid and Assoc., 379 So. 2d 633, 640 (Fla. 1980)

Public records2


  • Section 119.011(5): Defines “custodian of public records” as the person who is responsible for “maintaining the office having public records . . . “

  • Section 119.07(1)(b): Authorizes the custodian to designate another to permit inspection and copying; requires disclosure of designee’s identity.

  • Section 119.07(1)(a): “Every person” who has custody of a public record shall permit the record to be inspected and copied by any person . . . at any reasonable time, under reasonable conditions, and under supervision by the custodian of the public records.”

Public records3


  • Requests must be:

    • Acknowledged promptly and in good faith. Section 119.07(1)(c), F.S.

    • Responded to in a reasonable time, i.e., the time it takes to locate a record, review it for exempt information, and provide a copy to the requestor. Section 119.07(1)(a), F.S., and Tribune Company v. Cannella, 458 So.2d 1075, 1078 (Fla. 1984), appeal dismissed sub nom., DePerte v. Tribune Company, 105 S.Ct. 2315 (1985)

Public records4


  • An agency may not impose a rule or condition on the right of access that operates to restrict or circumvent that right. AGO 75-50

  • Absent specific statutory authority, an agency may not require requester to:

    • Make request in writing; Dade Aviation Consultants v. Knight Ridder, Inc., 800 So.2d 302 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002);

    • Identity himself or herself; Bevan v. Wanicka, 505 So. 2d 1116 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987); or

    • State the reason for or interest in the request.AGOs 92-38 and 91-76; Curry v State, 811 So.2d 736, 742 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).

Public records5


  • An agency must provide a copy of a public record in the format requested if the record is maintained in that form. Section 119.01(2)(f), F.S.

  • If the record is not in the format requested, an agency has the option of converting the record and charging a special service charge. Section 119.07(4), F.S.

  • Everyone has a right to public records in “some meaningful form.” Seigle v. Barry, 422 So. 2d 63, 66 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982), review denied, 421 So. 2d 988 (Fla. 1983)

Public records6


  • Exemptions

    • ONLY the Legislature can create an exemption to the right of access.

    • Records are presumed open unless there is a specific statutory exemption.

    • If a record contains both exempt and non-exempt information, the keeper of the record must redact (delete) that which is exempt and provide access to the remainder. Section 119.07(1)(d), F.S.

    • If agency determines record is exempt, agency must state basis and must put in writing if requester asks. Section 119.07(1)(e)&(f), F.S.

Public records7


  • Fees

    • An agency must “furnish a copy . . . of the (requested) record upon payment of the fee prescribed by law.” Section 119.07(4), F.S.

    • If there is no statutorily-prescribed fee, then fees authorized chapter 119. F.S., apply.

    • 15 cents a page for paper copies + an additional 5 cents for a two-sided copy. Section 119.07(4)(a)1. and 2., F.S.

    • The actual cost of duplication for large size or non-paper copies. Section 119.07(4)(a)3., F.S.

      • The cost of materials and supplies used to duplicate the record; does NOT include labor or overhead.Section 119.011(1), F.S.

Public records8


Special Service Charge Authorized: A reasonable fee for the extensive use of agency resources — personnel, information technology, or both.

  • Fee must be

    • Reasonable; and

    • Based on actual costs incurred.

  • An agency may not ordinarily charge for the cost to review records for exempt information but extensive use fee may be imposed IF extensive use of agency resources required.AG0 84-81; Florida Institutional Legal Services v. Florida Department of Corrections, 579 So. 2d 267, 269 (Fla. 1st DCA), review denied, 592 So. 2d 680 (Fla. 1991)

Public records9


  • A knowing violation of section 119.07(1), F.S., is a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term not exceeding one year. Section 119.10(1)(b), F.S.

  • A violation of any provision of chapter 119 -

    • Unintentional: non-criminal and punishable by a fine not exceeding $500. Section 119.10(1)(a), F.S.

    • Intentional: 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term not exceeding one year . Section 119.10(2), F.S.

  • Suspension or removal from office. Section 112.52(1), F.S.

  • Attorney’s fees and court costs. Section 119.12, F.S.

Public records10

Public Records

  • Records Retention

    • Section 119.021, F.S.

    • Division of Library and Information Services of Department of State required to adopt rules to:

      • Establish retention schedules

      • Disposal process for public records.


  • (850) 245-6770

Open government help

Open Government Help

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