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

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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 expect that record in the company of both the record custodian and the employee’s 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 t 19.07(1), F.S., specifically states that is single “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 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

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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