Florida Commission on Open Government
The Florida Commission on Open Government (FCOG) is a commission formed by Florida governor Charlie Christ by Executive Order 07-107 in June 2007 to review the Florida Sunshine Law and make recommendations for its improvement. The commission would be approving its final report on January 26, 2009.
The commission released its final report in January 2009.
Two members of the Commission on Open Government, Gerald Bailey and Renee Francis Lee, were strongly opposed to one plan of the FCOG, which was the panel's proposal to reduce the charges that government agencies are allowed to levy on citizens who ask for records. Gerald Bailey is the head of Florida's Department of Law Enforcement and Renee Francis Lee is the attorney for Hillsborough County. They believed the cost of record searches would be a hardship for state, city and county governments and that the FCOG did not take enough testimony from government agencies on the issue.
FCOG proposals that might have made it into the final plan were:
- Eliminating the "extensive use" provision in public-records law, which allows government agencies to charge high fees for finding, copying and providing public information.
- Require that records in any electronic medium be provided at actual cost of duplication.
- Allow people to negotiate reasonable fees for a "specialized electronic service or product"
- Change the current law so that any redaction of legally confidential information is not a "specialized" service requiring additional charges.
"Among the issues to be considered by the commission were the following:
- The relevance and redundancy of all exemptions to government meetings and records.
- Fees and charges imposed for inspecting and copying public records in light of advances in information technology.
- Collection, storage, retrieval, dissemination and accessibility of public records through advanced technologies, including Internet access.
- Current policies regarding the public’s right to participate in agency meetings subject to the Sunshine Law, including, but not limited to, the right to speak at meetings and whether such meetings conducted through the use of telephone, video conference or other remote electronic means is consistent with rights guaranteed by the Florida Constitution."
The nine members of the commission were as follows:
- Barbara Petersen, 54, of Tallahassee, president, First Amendment Foundation, who would serve as chair of the commission.
- Gerald Bailey, 60, of Tallahassee, commissioner, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, law enforcement representative.
- Bob Butterworth, 64, of Tallahassee, secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families and former Attorney General, state agency representative.
- John Carassas, 41, of Palm Harbor, Pinellas County Judge, representative of Florida citizens.
- Sandy D’Alemberte, 74, of Tallahassee, special counsel with Hunton & Williams and president emeritus, Florida State University, attorney with experience in First Amendment issues and litigation.
- Senator Paula Dockery, 46, of Lakeland, state senator, representative of the Florida Senate.
- Jeanne Grinstead, 56, of St. Petersburg, deputy managing editor, St. Petersburg Times, and president, Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, member of the media.
- Renee Lee, 54, of Riverview, Hillsborough County Attorney, local city/county government representative.
- Will Weatherford, 27, of Wesley Chapel, state representative, representative of the Florida House of Representatives.
- George Sheldon, Secretary, Department of Children and Families
The commission held a number of meetings in the process of developing its report.
- Executive Order 07-107
- Florida Office of Open Government website
- Report debates public-records fees
- More access urged for government
- Public records panel will issue final report, Associated Press, January 22, 2009
- Florida Capitol Bureau, "Fees for open-records statutes stir controversy," January 23, 2009
- Press release announcing commission appointees, June 19, 2008