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October 27, 2009 by Barbara


Dear Readers …there are still some issues going on in LBTS with Public Records Requests and e-mails…Still on the table are the e-mails requested by the Vice Mayor of Comm. Dodd and the Mayor…( we believe she may have turned hers over) ….The VM threatened to use all avenues available to get those e-mails…( He called the State Atty.) …as he as sat on the dais giving varying version of how his own 3 1/2 years worth of town business -related e-mails were deleted (1st he said he did it/ then he said it was AOL)…. He has sent in letters to the town saying he has no e-mails and the town has chosen to wash their hands of their hands of  the whole matter… At the same time the Town Atty. has contacted Comm. Dodd several times to say he better get a move on it with producing the VM’s request…if Comm. Dodd does not want the State Atty. to get involved… Comm. Dodd has gone to the trouble of putting this request together and there is now a “stand-off” while the Comm. awaits  payment from the VM for the PRR…as is allowed… So imagine this writer’s surprise when opening up the Sentinel today to see a move enacted in Hallandale Beach  after a resident made an PRR for the Mayor’s e-mail…(see below)…Not only was the story and its content an eye opener to what company we have in Hallandale Beach residents who too are dealing with city government  and elected officials who operate in seemingly nefarious ways… as a matter of routine…but the outside counsel the Hallandale Beach  used came from the very law firm that we employ in LBTS…Weiss, Serota!… So what gives?…Did our Atty. not bother to go in and see their firm’s managing director Cole (no relation) when it came to Comm. Dodd and the Mayor being asked for e-mails from the Vice Mayor off their personal computers with no specific information asked for, just dates in this “fishing expedition?..How could  Weiss Serota go to such lengths to defend the Mayor of Hallandale for what actually appears to be clear cut PRR for specific town business related e-mails and our Weiss Serota Atty. remained mum on what for the most part is not!… That’s a question that needs to be asked!…



Hallandale Beach activist and Internet blogger Mike Butler got an interesting response when he made a public records request earlier this year. The city sued him.

Butler sought the list of recipients of a Feb. 17 e-mail sent from the personal America Online account of Mayor Joy Cooper.

The e-mail’s subject line was “Mayor Cooper’s Update,” and it included attachments to three columns she had written about city issues in a weekly community newspaper, the South Florida Sun-Times. At the end of the e-mail, Cooper listed her City Hall address and phone number.

In his mind, that made the document — including its recipients — a public record.

The city could have simply denied Butler’s request.

That would have put the onus on him to follow up in court, if he wanted.

Instead, the city hired an outside law firm in April and initiated a civil suit against Butler, arguing that the e-mail was a private communication not subject to Florida‘s broad public records law.

That’s par for the bizarre course in Hallandale Beach, where city government likes to do convoluted and sometimes outrageous things in weird ways.

This is a city where commissioners have sneakily and hastily voted themselves pay raises (later rescinded), bought land from a city commissioner for $35,000 more than its latest appraised value and let the city manager resign and get rehired, triggering a $176,000 benefits payout.

Last week, in the public records case, Broward Circuit Judge Patti Henning indicated from the bench that she would rule in the city’s favor. A formal written order is pending.

Butler isn’t liable for damages, but his experience as a defendant has cost him time and money. His legal bill so far: $1,450.

“It’s unfortunate that the city chose to go a route that not only cost me money, but is intimidating,” Butler said Monday.

“I think it does have some sort of chilling effect,” said Ed Holodak, Butler’s attorney.

The message to citizen watchdogs and potential activists seems clear. WARNING: Making a records request could land you in court and be hazardous to your wealth.

Butler, 41, a Hallandale Beach resident for 12 years, said the city never flatly denied his request and didn’t fully explain its position until it filed the court case on April 17.

Attorney Jamie Cole, who handled the case for the city, and Mayor Cooper said Monday that Butler could have avoided court if he withdrew his records request. “The case would have gone away,” said Cole.

Butler said that was never conveyed to him.

Cole said the city wanted a legal ruling from a judge before denying Butler’s request because “the city didn’t want to break the law.”

Butler said he doubts he can afford an appeal. He called Judge Henning’s ruling “shocking,” and said it flies in the face of an 2007 advisory opinion from Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who wrote that e-mails from public officials, “that are intended to communicate, perpetuate or formalize knowledge” of city business are public records.

Butler said he wanted the recipient list because “it’s important to know who public officials are communicating with about city business.”

Mayor Cooper said the e-mail didn’t involve city business and said revealing the recipients would be an invasion of privacy.

“You’re under the assumption that he’s a good guy and he’s the victim,” Cooper said. “But the victim is the city commission. I feel like my privacy has been raped.”

Leave it to the shrill mayor to turn things upside down. She accused Butler of working in tandem with commission rival Keith London, “pulling shenanigans” for political purposes.

“She makes it very personal and very vindictive,” said Butler, a city critic whose previous record requests have unearthed eye-opening information, including city manager Mike Good’s pay package. “I’m just asking questions and trying to get answers…How is it that it falls on me, an individual citizen, to defend state law?”,0,4978569.column


The Atty…..

Broward Office: Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske,

Mr. Cole is a Member of the Firm and serves as its Managing Director. He is also a senior member of the Litigation Division. He represents both private and public clients in all areas of the law with an emphasis on complex litigation and governmental matters. Mr. Cole is also an accomplished appellate attorney, appearing before the Second, Third and Fourth District Courts of Appeals. A native South Floridian, Mr. Cole was the valedictorian of his Ivy League law school class.

Mr. Cole currently serves as the City Attorney for the cities of Weston and Miramar, the two fastest growing municipalities in Broward County, and serves as special litigation counsel for numerous municipalities in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Mr. Cole has presided over more than 1000 City Commission meetings and has spoken at numerous local government law seminars (on subjects ranging the full gamut of local government law, including ethics, property tax, government finance and charter review). Mr. Cole has published and spoken on various topics, including property tax, the free exercise of religion, the Offer of Judgment Rule, government ethics, city charters, mortgage foreclosures and municipal law.’


Perhaps Commissioner Dodd needs a second opinion from the Managing Director at Weiss, Serota?….

more to come……….

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