News and Sun-Sentinel Company v. Schwab, Twitty, & Hanser Architecture Group was a case before the Florida Supreme Court in 1992 concerning open records laws and their applicability to publicly funded, private corporations.
This case established a number of criteria for determining if a private corporation is acting on behalf of a public agency.
- Schwab, Twitty & Hanser Architectural Group, Inc. is a private architectural firm that commercially contracted with Palm Beach County School Board to assist with the design and construction of new buildings.
- On April 12, 1990, the News and Sun-Sentinel Co. requested access to all of the firms documents pertaining to the construction of the school buildings.
- The firm rejected the request, claiming that it was not an agency under Florida's definition within the Florida Sunshine Law and was thus not subject to the law.
- The newspaper filed suit and the circuit court ruled in favor of the firm.
- The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the firm, agreeing that they were not an agency or a private company acting "on behalf of a public agency."
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of the firm.
Criteria established by common law
The court determined that Florida common law had established a number of criteria for determining whether public records laws applied to private institutions because they were acting "on bahalf of" the public agency. They include:
1.) The amount of public funding
2.) Whether or not the funds are mixed with city funds
3.) If the activities occur on public property
4.) If the service constitutes a key aspect of the decision making processes of the body
5.) If the service provided is a function of the body
6.) Public control of the company
7.) If the corporation was created by the agency
8.) If the public agency has an invested financial interest in the corporation
9.) Who is benefiting from the corporation
The court first rejected the idea that merely entering into contract created a relationship of a private corporation acting on behalf of a public agency. The court also held that the firm failed to meet the qualifications of a corporation acting on behalf of the public body because the firm was not created or controlled by the district, received funds in exchange for a specific service, was not key to decision making and did not serve a public function, and benefited the city in only a professional commercial capacity. Based on this, the court affirmed the decision of the lower court and established that the firm was not subject to public records requests.