Recent Florida Supreme Court Case Reaffirms that Unintentional Violations of Florida’s Public Records Laws Will Result in An Award of Attorney’s Fees Against Local Governments. On April 14, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion in the matter of Board of Trustees of Jacksonville Police & Fire Pension v. Curtis Lee, Case No. SC 13-1315, reaffirming that Florida Courts do not have discretion to evaluate the “good faith” efforts by the government agency to comply with Florida’s Public Records law. To the extent there was any doubt or remnant argument otherwise, the Court made it absolutely clear that a finding of a violation of Florida’s Public Records law will result in attorney’s fees being awarded to the prevailing party when a local government is in violation of this law regardless of whether the local government’s violation was unintentionally committed. This Court opinion emphasizes that local governments must be vigilant in ensuring compliance with this law. Click here to read the Court’s opinion. Questions about Florida’s Public Records law can be directed to any of our law firm’s attorneys.
2016 Legislation Affecting CDDs: Persson & Cohen, P.A. is pleased to provide the following summary of legislation passed by the 2016 Florida Legislature affecting CDDs: 2016 CDD Legislation.pdf
New Language Required in Public Contracts: On March 8, Governor Scott approved Chapter 2016-20. Most notably, this new law amends Section 119.0701, Florida Statutes, to require the following language be added (in at least 14-point boldfaced type) to any contract with an individual or entity providing services to a public agency and acting on behalf of said public agency:
IF THE CONTRACTOR HAS QUESTIONS REGARDING THE APPLICATION OF CHAPTER 119, FLORIDA STATUTES, TO THE CONTRACTOR'S DUTY TO PROVIDE PUBLIC RECORDS RELATING TO THIS CONTRACT, CONTACT THE CUSTODIAN OF PUBLIC RECORDS AT ...(telephone number, e-mail address, and mailing address)....
This is in addition to the other public records language already required to be in such contracts. The law also puts more specific requirements on any such contractors complying with the public records laws including, but not limited to, providing records upon request from the public agency's custodian of public records, and keeping/maintaining and transferring public records to the agency upon completion of the contract.
Requests for public records are still to be made directly to the agency, but if the records are not possessed by the agency, the agency must immediately notify the contractor of the request and the contractor must provide the records within a reasonable time or be subject to penalties.
The law is effective immediately, but the contract requirements apply to contracts for services entered into or amended on or after July 1, 2016.
Successful Efforts to Defend Home Rule: Maggie D. Mooney-Portale in conjunction with lobbyist David Ramba of Ramba Consulting Group (www.rambaconsulting.com) successfully assisted the Town of Longboat Key on the enactment of SB 374 (Chapter 2014-178, Laws of Florida) during the 2014 Legislative Session. SB 374 amends the portion of Section 163.3167(8), Florida Statutes (2013), that prohibits referendum processes relating to local comprehensive plan amendments that affect five or fewer parcels of land. Article II, Sec. 22(b) of the Town of Longboat Key's Charter requires a referendum for any density increases in excess of the density limits set forth in the Town's 1984 Comprehensive Plan. The referendum requirement has been an integral part of the Town's Charter since the 1980s, and has been a condition precedent that all applicants pursuing density increases must obtain before they could have comprehensive plan amendments considered by the Town's Planning and Zoning Board and Town Commission. SB 374 preserves the Town's longstanding Charter provision by eliminating the "five parcel" language from Section 163.3167(8), Florida Statutes. Governor Scott signed SB 374 (Detert) into law on June 20, 2014. Please contact Maggie D. Mooney-Portale for more information.
Federal Court Issues Decision Affecting Drug Testing of Public Employees: Florida’s public employers need to be aware of a recent federal court decision regarding the constitutionality of certain personnel policies related to drug testing for all job applicants regardless of suspicion or cause. See Voss v. City of Key West, 2014 WL 1883588 (S.D. Fla. May 9, 2014). In Voss, the Court noted that while suspicion-less drug testing of job applicants may be routine for private employers, public employers are more constrained by the Fourth Amendment and public employers can only lawfully drug test applicants or employees under limited circumstances. Please contact Andrew H. Cohen for more information.