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Here’s The Scoop … FEE-S … FI …FOE-S …. FUM-BLES ……

FEES FOR “FOES” …… FINAGLING FOR A FIRING? …$250,000,00 BIG ONES?…

Dear Readers…A follow-up to the $177.19 post for public records requests …..Today this writer received the following e-mails from Town PIO D’Oliveira (don’t shoot the messenger…Steve just does as he is instructed to do by his boss)…Again the Town has wasted time..gone off in the wrong direction and left themselves open for another post on bad acts coming from this Town Administration….I do not recall asking for a copy of the IT bids (the bids the Town would not read “aloud” on July 29,2009 …prev. scoops post)…but today the PIO sent an e-mail saying the Public Records Req. was ready. I check ed my e-mail, and saw no such request, and sent an e-mail back (see below) stating just that. BUT, if I had… the amount was $47.58!…WOW!…..YIKES!…This is the route the Town wants to take with the RFP bids? ….. The  Assist. Town Manager on July 29th and again on Aug. 11, 2009 (prev. scoops posts) stated that “anyone” wanting to see the bids no longer read “aloud” may make a PRR after 10 days….Only now it will cost $$$$!…Unless, it was a cost to only a taxpaying resident? Hmmm…The August 11, 2009 RFP produced 16 bids for the Commercial Blvd.drainage project and 3 for the Parking Citation Process…that’s 19…so the cost for those results?…According to the opinions below …the Town cannot  use the RFPs for  generating revenue …”The fees authorized under Chapter 119 are not meant to be a profit-making or revenue-generating operation.”…That certainly appears to be the case if such charges are made for RFP bids…Also after the e-mail I sent to say I would now take this to the State’s Atty….I received an e-mail stating 2 other PRR’s were ready and the cost  for them was minimal .60 & $1.65….Odd and amusing…No rhyme …but perhaps plenty of reason (State’s Atty.?) and quite familiar…For Resident Yann Brandt was the recipient of the same type of treatment after being charged $129.44  (103 dbl sided/ 84 single pages) for a PRR that took over a month…
From: June White
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 2:46 PM
To: Yann Brandt
Subject: Re: Records Request

Mr. Brandt,

On June 29, 2009 you submitted a public records request to the Town Clerk’s Office. The request has been completed and is ready to be released. Below is the total amount due for your inquiry.

Staff Time:

Staff Member 1 – 1 hours 30 minutes = $31.96

Staff Member 2 – 2 Hours = $64.28

———————————————————————

Pages:

Double sided – 103 = $20.60

Single sided – 84 = $12.60

——————————————————–

Total Amount Due:

Staff time = $96.24

Pages = +$33.20

$129.44

– $20.00 Deposit

$109.44

The total amount due must be submitted to the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea by check or cash before the response may be released. All checks must be made out to the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

Should you have any further questions or concerns, please contact me.

and then after e-mailing to inform the Town that it lacked much of  the correct materials and some requested items were not included, also saying he [Yann] would follow through any available legal avenue to obtain the requests …The Town Clerk responded within 2 days with “no charge” for the materials or staff time and a response for the rest of his request to come!…Mr. Brandt previously made a request for the monthly budgets from 10/08 to 5/09 and received them (each 35 pages/ 28o pages) for a cost of $45.59 (no staff time charge)…This writer recently received 109 SINGLE SIDED pages for $177.19!…According to how things should be done …(see below)”It is a good idea for agencies to always provide a written invoice detailing the costs and charges related to public records. This is especially true if the fees include special service charges or are calculated at a rate higher than a clerk’s salary. It is also advisable, when possible, to provide the requestor with an estimate of the cost in advance of the production of the requested records. Agencies may ask for the payment in advance of production, but the law does not require it.”…Makes sense…Right?… I was previously informed when I originally made one request that it required a deposit. It was required due to the records being off site…but according to the statute…”Agencies may not charge for such things as utilities, office expenses, or travel time and retrieval costs for public records stored off-premises.”…OOPS!..More of what is wrong with PRRs in LBTS………see below

Readers …there’s more….much more…and it will be in the next post…and it too is a head shaker…guaranteed to provide whip lash!…It should make taxpaying residents come in out in droves to the Sept. 9th Regular Commission meeting and the Sept. 10th Round Table to decide on how to conduct the Town Manager’s Performance Review!…

THE E-MAILS….. THE ATTY. GEN. CRIST OPINION/ MORE…. PRR STATUTE 119.07

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 10:57 AM

From:
“Steve D’Olivera”

To:
“Barbara Cole”
Barbara:

On 8/6/09 you requested the 9 bids submitted for the IT Services RFP. The request has been completed and the total is $47.58.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 11:24 AM

Steve
Barbara Cole”
To:
[email protected]
Correction it was on 8/7/09 and I have been advised to send this on to the State’s Atty.BC

— On Tue, 8/18/09, Barbara Cole wrote:

From: Barbara Cole
Subject: Fw: Re: FW: Response to PRR
To: lbtspio
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2009, 11:19 AM

Steve, My e-mail shows I asked for the following on 8/5/09…( Note I asked for cost beyond copying.) I do not show a request for the IT bids…In any case the IT bids should have been a copy of the bids and per Assist. TM Olinzock at the 8/11/09 meeting in Jarvis Hall there should be no charge for the bids.Do you intend to make this kind of charge to the bidders? I will send you the public records per state statute of costs beyond copying. I will also send the Town’s exorbitant charges to residents on to Tallahassee for an opinion. I await your response. Barbara Cole

— On Fri, 8/7/09, Barbara Cole wrote:

From: Barbara Cole
Subject: Re: FW: Response to PRR
To: “STEVE d’OLIVEIRA”
Date: Friday, August 7, 2009, 10:44 AM

Steve; I am making a public records request for all of the backup material supplied to the Commission for the May 22,2007 Commission meeting concerning the contract drawn up for Town Manager Colon. The contract was approved under the consent agenda on page 19 of the minutes. Thank you, I would like confirmation of receipt of this request. I would also ask for a time frame and any expense expected beyond copying it such as staff time. Thank you, Barbara Cole

On Tue, 8/18/09, Steve D’Olivera <> wrote:

From: Steve D’Olivera
Subject: Public Records Request Follow-Up (2)
To: “Barbara Cole”
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2009, 12:11 PM

Barbara:

Two more of your PRRs are complete.

One is for the Town Attorney’s opinion of opening and reading bid prices publicly. That request is a total of $0.60.

The other request is for the backup material from May 22, 2008 item 10G. That total is $1.65.

steve

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 1:12 PM
From:
“Barbara Cole”

To:
“Steve D’Olivera”
Steve did you mean May 22, 2007? not 2008 per req. below…
Steve; I am making a public records request for all of the backup material supplied to the Commission for the May 22,2007 Commission meeting concerning the contract drawn up for Town Manager Colon. The contract was approved under the consent agenda on page 19 of the minutes. Thank you, I would like confirmation of receipt of this request. I would also ask for a time frame and any expense expected beyond copying it such as staff time. Thank you, Barbara Cole

fees for public records
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 2:16 PM
From:
“Barbara Cole”

To:
[email protected]

Steve, per prev. e-mail, here are 2 online findings of fees for public records requests, The 1st is Atty. Gen. Crist response to Lake Worth/ 2nd MORE 119.07.

I believe the Town has not followed the statutes. I have been overcharged as have others making requests.(Yann Brandt, Mark Brown) I should not have been charged for going off site as was indicated as a reason for a dep. when I originally asked for the Palm Club sewer design and permit costs (I rescinded that req. as you know.) There seems to be no set fee structure as seen today with the req. e-mails received from you. $47+ to .60& $1.65 for 2 other requests. I feel the charge of $177.19 for materials provided was exorbitant when what was provided were copies of an RFP free to vendors,those copies were already made,which included additional drawings and costs of service from the present vendor that I did not ask for in the request/ the 1 page of the Manager’s 9 year old resume/ the July 4th invoices etc. that was certainly readily available in 1 place and the 1 page (2 lines)response of staff hours from Municipal Works. That cost to me certainly did not fall under the below criteria. I do intend to carry this further. I will continue to make public requests as is my right again, according to the criteria below. I look forward to timely and properly priced public records request responses from the Town and for the Town to do what is required below to rectify the current situation. Barbara Cole

ATTY. GEN. CRIST OPINION- LAKE WORTH

The Public Records Law sets fees for furnishing these copies:

“The custodian of public records shall furnish a copy or a certified copy of the record upon payment of the fee prescribed by law. If a fee is not prescribed by law, the following fees are authorized:
(a)1. Up to 15 cents per one-sided copy for duplicated copies of not more than 14 inches by 8½ inches;
2. No more than an additional 5 cents for each two-sided copy; and
3. For all other copies, the actual cost of duplication of the public record.
(b) The charge for copies of county maps or aerial photographs supplied by county constitutional officers may also include a reasonable charge for the labor and overhead associated with their duplication.
(c) An agency may charge up to $1 per copy for a certified copy of a public record.
(d) If the nature or volume of public records requested to be inspected or copied pursuant to this subsection is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or both, the agency may charge, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, a special service charge, which shall be reasonable and shall be based on the cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor cost of the personnel providing the service that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency for the clerical and supervisory assistance required, or both.
(e)1. Where provision of another room or place is necessary to photograph public records, the expense of providing the same shall be paid by the person desiring to photograph the public records.
2. The custodian of public records may charge the person making the photographs for supervision services at a rate of compensation to be agreed upon by the person desiring to make the photographs and the custodian of public records. If they fail to agree as to the appropriate charge, the charge shall be determined by the custodian of public records.”[1]

As provided by section 119.07(3)(a), Florida Statutes, “[a]ny person shall have the right of access to public records for the purpose of making photographs of the record while such record is in the possession, custody, and control of the custodian of public records.”

It has long been the position of the Attorney General’s Office that, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, public information must be open to the public without charge.[2] In Attorney General Opinion 76-34, this office concluded that in the absence of a specific statutory authorization of any charge or fee, the public must have free access to a computer terminal for the mere inspection and examination of records.[3] Moreover, the provision of access to public records is a statutory duty imposed by the Legislature upon all records custodians and should not generally be considered a revenue-generating operation.[4]

However, in the situation you have described, the clerk has performed the service described in the statute and is entitled to the fees set forth therein. A public records request has been presented and the records have been copied pursuant to that request. The clerk is entitled to receive payment for the entire amount of the value of his or her services as authorized by the statute. If the documents are not collected by the requesting party, the clerk is entitled to retain the deposit received for copying and other services as he or she would be entitled to retain the entire amount assessed for such a service if it had been paid in advance. Likewise, the custodian may bill the requester for the difference between the deposit and the actual cost if full payment was not received initially. The clerk must also refund any amount originally collected as a deposit if the final copying fee is less than the amount collected as a deposit.

In sum, it is my opinion that the custodian of records for the City of Lake Worth is authorized to retain a monetary deposit collected in connection with actual costs incurred in making copies to comply with a public records request if the requesting party subsequently advises the city that the copies are no longer needed. Further, it is my opinion that the custodian is authorized to bill the requester for any shortfall between the deposit and the actual cost of copying the public records when the copies have been made and the requesting party subsequently advises the city that the records are not needed.

Again, I must emphasize that providing access to public records is a statutory duty imposed upon all records custodians. I assume that any deposit collected by a records custodian is reasonable based upon section 119.07(4), Florida Statutes, and that it reflects the actual costs of producing copies. Any attempt to charge excessive fees in an effort to discourage citizens from exercising their right to inspect and copy public records would constitute a violation of the Public Records Law.
http://www.myflsunshine.com/ago.nsf/sunopinions/C6EF678CEB69883B85256FF1005C71B1
MORE …..
Public Records – Fees and Costs
In Florida, providing access to public records is the law. With a few exceptions, the
records of state and local agencies are subject to the Florida Public Records Act, from
records in the Governor’s office to those of your local school board. They must give
access to public records for inspection as well as for copying. This session is an overview
of the types of costs and fees agencies may charge for providing public documents.
Generally, agencies may not charge a fee for the inspection of public records. For
example, agencies may not charge citizens for listening to audio recordings of any
hearings, or for reviewing documents unless redaction of exempt material is necessary.
With today’s technology, it has never been easier to provide citizens free access to public
records through the internet. Agencies may post all public records, from minutes of
meetings to contracts, on their public website. This is a simple, efficient, and economical
way to give all citizens free access to public information. By posting public records on
websites, agencies will avoid the use of employees’ time for searching and copying
records requested, which saves the agency money and resources. This convenient method
also provides citizens with records faster and without the expense of paper copies.
Agencies may also wish to consider providing access to a computer terminal for citizens
to inspect and examine an agency’s non-exempt public records.
The Florida Statutes provide a schedule for copying fees. If no fee is set forth in the
statutes, section 119.07(4)(a)1 of the Florida Statutes permits agencies to charge up to 15
cents per one-sided copy for paper copies that are 14 inches by 8 ½ inches or less and an
additional 5 cents for two-sided copies. Agencies can also charge one dollar for certified
copies of a public record. For other copies, the charge is limited to the cost of the material
and supplies used.
A few exceptions exist where agencies may charge more than 15 cents. Among these are
all court records, county maps, aerial photographs, and crash and homicide reports. An
agency may not charge a sales tax when providing copies of public records.
Sometimes, the nature or the volume of the public records requested will require
extensive use of the agency’s information technology resources or of the clerical or
supervisory personnel assigned to make copies or safeguard records. In these instances,
the law allows agencies to charge a service fee for the inspection and copying of public
records. All service charges for inspecting public records must be REASONABLE.
Agencies should adopt a policy that addresses the circumstances when a special service
charge will be imposed as well as a schedule of charges. The policy must be consistent
with the purpose and intent of the Public Records Act and should strike a balance
between the agency’s responsibility to protect records and its legal duty to ensure
unfettered access to public information.
Page 2
The special service charge should be based on actual labor costs for the personnel who
are required to complete the records request. In calculating labor costs, agencies should
use the clerical employee’s base salary and employee benefits for the time spent making
copies, even if an employee at a higher pay level actually did the work.
A higher rate may be charged for requests that involve complex documents containing
various exempt or confidential information. Usually this will involve documents that
have to be reviewed by an attorney or paralegal with the knowledge necessary to make
decisions with respect to potential exemptions. For example, a circuit court judge
approved a rate of thirty-five dollars per hour in a case where the agency attorney had
reviewed exempt material in a voluminous criminal case file.
The fees authorized under Chapter 119 are not meant to be a profit-making or revenue-
generating operation. Agencies may not charge for such things as utilities, office
expenses, or travel time and retrieval costs for public records stored off-premises.
Similarly, an agency may not charge fees designed to recoup the agencies original cost of
developing or producing the records. Agencies should never attempt to prevent access to
public records by charging excessive fees.
When an agency receives a request for a large number of records, an estimate of the fee
should be communicated to the requestor before the work is undertaken. Agencies may
also require a reasonable deposit or advance payment prior to producing the requested
records. Agencies may bill for any shortfall between the deposit and the actual cost of
copying the public records when the copies have been made and the requesting party
subsequently advises that the records are not needed.
It is a good idea for agencies to always provide a written invoice detailing the costs and
charges related to public records. This is especially true if the fees include special service
charges or are calculated at a rate higher than a clerk’s salary. It is also advisable, when
possible, to provide the requestor with an estimate of the cost in advance of the
production of the requested records. Agencies may ask for the payment in advance of
production, but the law does not require it.
Florida law specifically provides that “Each agency that maintains a public record in an
electronic recordkeeping system shall provide to any person, pursuant to this chapter, a
copy of any public record in the system which is not exempted by law from public
disclosure. An agency must provide a copy of the record in the medium requested if the
agency maintains the record in that medium, and the agency may charge a fee which shall
be in accordance with this chapter.”
Therefore, agencies are required to provide a copy of the record in the requested format if
the agency maintains the record in that format. Agencies are not required to furnish
electronic public records in a format other than the standard format routinely maintained
by the agency. For example, if asked for a copy of a computer software disk used by an
agency, a typed transcript would not satisfy the requirements of the Public Records Law.
If an agency chooses to provide records in a requested format that is different than the
Page 3
standard format used by the agency, the requestor is responsible for the costs of
converting or reformatting the information. Once again, it is important that agencies
communicate with the requestor any circumstances which will require fees and charges.
The Attorney General’s office is always available to answer your questions about public
records. Please feel free to call me, Alexis Lambert, at 850-245-0140 or visit the Attorney
General’s website at www.myfloridalegal.com.
Open government isn’t just good government- it’s the public’s right.
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/KGRG-7Q2JH2/$file/Fees.pdf.

more to come…….

More on… http://heresthescooponline.com/

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