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Highlands County, Florida

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Highlands County is one of 67 counties in Florida. Sebring is the county seat.

Highlands County had an estimated population of 98,704 in 2009.[1]

Evaluation of website

Main article: Evaluation of Florida county websites
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Budget
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Meetings P
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Elected Officials
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Administrative Officials
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Permits, zoning
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Audits
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Contracts
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Public records P
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Local taxes
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Transparency grading process


This site was last evaluated on March 10, 2013.

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 5 years.[2]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 20 years.
    • Current meeting agendas are available.
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.
    • Meeting podcasts are available.[3]
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[4]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[5]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[6].
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2005 are available.[7]
  • Public records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the Public Information Coordinator. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[8]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[9]
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.[10]

The bad

  • Meetings
    • Meeting agendas are not archived for at least 3 years.
  • Lobbying
  • Public records
    • A public records form is not provided by the Public Information Coordinator.
    • A fee schedule for documents is not provided.[11]

Open records lawsuit

On January 5, 2009, Preston Colby of the group Florida Public Safety filed a lawsuit against Highlands County for failure to produce public records, maintaining in his suit that the county's failure to produce the records he requested is a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law. In his suit, Colby names the county commissioners as a whole as well as Chairperson Barbara Stewart, County Administrator Michael J. Wright, Assistant County Administrator Ricky Helms, Records Management Officer Gloria Rybinski and Planning Director James Polatty as individual defendants.

There are three different counts in the lawsuit of either denying Colby's records requests or claiming exemption to notes and e-mails. In 2008, Colby received a $9,100 settlement from the county over another records request suit that the county decided to settle.[12]

In late January 2009, county attorney Ross Macbeth filed a response to the lawsuit in which the admission was made that certain public records were excluded from the file that was provided to Colby in response to Colby's request.[13]

Audits

For Highlands County, the clerk or comptroller performs the internal audits.[14]

External links

References