Back to School: Florida school districts lobbying report

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Sunshine Review sent Freedom of Information Act requests to the 27 Florida school districts with registered lobbyists.[1] The results of the project were incorporated into Florida school districts lobbying totals.

FOIA Request

We requested:

  1. Contracts between the school system and all lobbyists;
  2. Check register data for all payouts, checks or other disbursements to those lobbyist(s);
  3. All e-mail and/or other written correspondence between the school system and the lobbyist(s), and between the members of the school board and those lobbyist(s);
  4. Copies of invitations to any and all legislative receptions that have been sponsored, funded or otherwise underwritten in whole or in part by the school system, along with a breakdown of costs incurred for those receptions.
  5. Information regarding any gifts given or presented to legislators and and/or executive officials, including receipts and/or purchase orders.

The following is a summary of school district responses.

Bay District Schools

Bay District Schools supplied a response for free. The school district sent only one contract with the lobbying firm that represents it, Mixon & Associates. Since it sent all payments to the firm, contract terms were extrapolated. The district information officer informed Sunshine Review that sending all correspondence between the school district and lobbyists would be expensive and time-intensive. Sunshine Review did not proceed, but the district information officer made it clear that the item could be fulfilled in the future if we were willing to wait and pay.

Brevard Public Schools

Brevard Public Schools sent a first response package that Sunshine Review received September 21, 2009. Sunshine Review made the request September 9. The first response was unclear without renewal contracts, but the district was notified these were missing and sent them the same day. District officials scheduled a phone call with Sunshine Review to review the FOIA request and to address their cost concerns regarding correspondence between the district and lobbyists.

Broward County Public Schools

Broward County Public Schools took two months to complete our request. The information officer for the district stayed in constant communication and was responsive and quick to answer questions and updating us on the progress district staff were making on the request. The school district sent all contracts with lobbyists, meeting agenda for meetings regarding the soliciting of lobbyists, and a record of all payments made to all lobbyists since 2001.

Charlotte County Public Schools

Charlotte County Public Schools

Citrus County Schools

Citrus County Schools asked for $24.90 to fulfill the FOIA request. This included all contracts since 2004 between the district and two lobbying firms, purchase orders and payment information, and all correspondence between the district and lobbyists. The school district also included an additional item, a list of bills the district supported and whether they were passed or not. The district did not send information on legislative receptions or gifts to legislators because it does not engage in those activities. This response from district came two weeks after Sunshine Review sent a request.

Collier County District Schools Board

Collier County District School Board responded within 1 week of receiving request. The school district asked for $350.00 to fulfill the entire request. We did not proceed.

Duval County Public Schools

Duval County Public Schools first responded that it had no relationships with lobbyists. However, upon clarification, the school district was timely in communicating with our staff. The complete response package came free-of-charge and included all contracts to lobbyists since 2004 and payment records for these contracts.

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hillsborough County Public Schools sent payments to lobbyists as well as contracts for those lobbyists for the period of 2004-2011. The school district returned a complete response after 5 weeks from the original date of contact.

Indian River School District

Indian River School District supplied a response for free. It only sent some of the contracts Sunshine Review asked for but sent the check register for payments to lobbyists. The district also sent some correspondence with lobbyists, and it sent invoices for catering along with extra information on receptions’ focus and notable members of the legislature that attended. The district does not allow gift-giving to legislators. Sunshine Review received the fulfilled FOIA within two weeks of speaking with the district information officer.

Lake County Schools

Lake County Schools sent payments and contracts to lobbyists, as well as payments to the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. It was one of the few schools to send information regarding its membership in government sector lobbying associations. The response time for the total package was about 5 weeks since sending the original request.

Leon County Schools

Leon County Schools supplied a response for free. The district did not send all contracts, but sent all payments so information was almost complete. The district did not send correspondence with lobbyists because it would take too much time and money. The district does not engage in legislative receptions or allow gifts to legislators. Sunshine Review received the documents two months after sending a FOIA request.

Manatee County School District

Manatee County School District asked for $35.63 to fulfill our FOIA request. The district took approximately a month to fulfill the request. It sent lobbyist contracts with the firm Mixon & Associates since 2003. Amount lobbying $ uncovered:

Marion County Public Schools

Marion County Public Schools originally asked for $242.64 for all of the items on the FOIA. For sending contracts with lobbyists, the district charged $66.06.

Martin County School Board

Martin County School Board supplied a response for free. The school district sent partial portions of lobbyist contracts, check register, and correspondence with lobbyists. The response came with only one contract and renewal letter and with information for payments since 2005, not since 2004. It is unclear whether these are all payments, and whether these encompass all agreements between the district and lobbying firms. The district did not include information on legislative receptions or gifts to legislators, since the school district does not engage in these activities. Sunshine Review received the documents three weeks after requesting them.

Monroe County School District

Monroe County School District sent all contracts with lobbyists since 2004, and sent check registers and receipts for expenditures and payments made to lobbyists, as well as correspondence between the district and the lobbyists for the last five years. The response package took two months. The district stayed in constant communication, was very responsive and had quick turnaround to questions.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Miami-Dade County Public Schools took about a month to complete our request, and sent lobbyist contracts and payments to lobbyists sicne 2002.

Okaloosa County School District

Okaloosa County School District supplied a response for free. It included lobbyist contracts, payments to lobbyists, and correspondence with lobbyists. It did not include legislative receptions or gifts to legislators. Sunshine Review received the district's response and the actual fulfilled FOIA one week after request.

Okeechobee County School Board

Okeechobee County School Board

Orange County Public Schools

Orange County Public Schools supplied a response for free. The school district sent contracts and the check register for payments to lobbyists. It did not include correspondence between the school district and its lobbyists. The response package did not come with invites to legislative invites or gifts to legislators, as it does not engage in these activities. The district was in constant communication during the two months it took to fulfill the request. It also sent a contract the day after it was brought to their attention that the contract was not included in their response.

Osceola County School District

Osceola County School District supplied a response for free. The response came with copies of contracts with lobbyists, payments to lobbyists, and correspondence between the district and lobbyists. It did not include information on legislative receptions or gifts to legislators because these are not applicable to the district. Sunshine Review received this response four weeks after sending the request.

Palm Beach County School District

Palm Beach County School District sent the response package for $10.65. Sunshine Review originally sent a FOIA request on June 22, 2009, and the district replied the following day. Sunshine Review received the response package within the following two weeks. This included contracts with lobbyists, check register, and correspondence with lobbyists. This did not include invites to legislative receptions or gifts to legislators, since the school district does not do these.

Pasco County Schools

Pasco County Schools

Santa Rosa County School District

Santa Rosa County School District supplied a response for free. Sunshine Review sent a request on June 24, 2009 and the district responded on five days later with a progress report. On July 27, the district sent copies of contracts, check register, and correspondence with lobbyists. It did not include information on legislative receptions or gifts to legislators because these are not applicable to the district.

Sarasota County Public Schools

Sarasota County Public Schools asked for $2,954.25 on September 21, 2009, to fulfill the FOIA request Sunshine Review sent on July 23. Sunshine Review did not proceed.

Seminole County Public Schools

Seminole County Public Schools

St. Johns County School District

St. Johns County School District asked for $34.88 to fulfill the request. The response package came with contracts, payments to lobbyists, and correspondence between the school district and lobbyists. It did not include information on legislative receptions or gifts to legislators because the school district does not engage in those activities. Sunshine Review received response material three weeks after the request sent.

St Lucie County School Board

St. Lucie County School Board was FOIA's on June 29, 2009, and asked for $728.40 on July 29 to complete our request. Sunshine Review did not proceed.

See also

References