PINAC: Miami Herald Exposes Coverup of Jail Death where Inmate was Forced into Scalding Shower

PINAC

 

By Carlos Miller

Inmates

On June 23, 2012, Florida Department of Corrections officers locked a 50-year-old mentally ill inmate into a shower with scalding water as punishment for defecating inside his cell at the Dade Correctional Institute in South Florida, leaving him inside for up to an hour until he died, according to a fellow inmate who heard the man’s screams of pain and agony from inside his prison cell.

But nearly two years later, the Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to conduct an autopsy, the Miami-Dade Police Department has yet to charge anybody and the Florida Department of Corrections has closed it’s “investigation” into the matter.

And the security camera that video recorded guards forcing inmate Darren Rainey into the shower that night was somehow “damaged” minutes later, therefore not capturing the sadistic murder. READ MORE

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CAFI Helping Local Groups Get Public Records

By Cathy Zollo

Local watchdog groups are increasingly taking over the roll once filled by reporters, whose numbers have shrunk by more than 20,000 due to newsroom cuts nationwide in recent years.

While it’s a positive development that these groups are taking the lead in policing local governments, the situation puts them at the mercy of public officials and staffers, who often fail to abide by Florida’s public records laws.

For this reason, Citizens Awareness Foundation is stepping into the public records fray to educate people about their right to public records and help them get the records they request.

Sometimes that help takes the form of phone calls, emails and in-person advocacy for these groups and individuals.

Sometimes it only takes being copied on the chain of emails between government officials and individuals or local watchdog groups.

That was the experience of John Bandorf, a former Volusia County Corrections Officer, who with his wife founded Volusia Exposed to uncover problems with jail inspections. The Bandorf’s aim is to inform the general public and the staff of the Volusia County Department of Public Protection of problems within VCDPP over the past 20 years.

Volusia exposed

Their work includes all divisions of VCDPP, including the county jail, fire services, beach safety, emergency medical services, medical examiner, emergency management and animal control.

The group focuses a great deal of attention on changes over recent years in the way jails in Florida are inspected. They say it’s a critical issue that affects the safety of inmates and corrections officers.

In a recent investigation into these inspections, Bandorf had requested records from the Florida Model Jail Standards committee to understand why the FMJS inspection process is failing to identify, correct and enforce minimum county jail safety and security standards within all 67 Florida counties.

Bandorf and other activists attended a FMJS committee meeting in Jacksonville and learned during the meeting of records they wanted to review. But officials stonewalled on the request, illegally requiring Bandorf to file a written request.

Volusia Exposed sought the assistance of CAFI, and he began copying Executive Director Joel Chandler in emails to these officials.

Bandorf said just including CAFI in the emails was a game changer.

“Now when we walk in there, they know we can pick up the phone and call Citizens Awareness Foundation, and they hand over the records,” Bandorf said. “Most times they don’t even charge us.”

If you or your group have experienced problems obtaining public records you are legally entitled to, please contact Citizens Awareness Foundation at Info@citizensawarenessfoundation.org.

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Pensacola News Journal: Our eroding rights

Pensacola News Journal

 

What’s that you hear? It might be the sound of mice in your walls. Or maybe it’s just the Florida Legislature, slowly gnawing away at the idea of open government.

In the recently ended regular session, l

egislators passed 22 new open-government exemptions, according to Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation.

If you’re keeping score, that’s a record.

In addition, nine other exemptions were re-enacted. In fact, 12 percent of all bills passed restrict access to public records. Just as upsetting was what didn’t pass that could have helped affirm the public’s right to know. READ MORE

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Palm Beach Post: Commentary: 2014 legislative session dim for Florida Sunshine laws

PB Post

 

By Margie Menzel

Barbara Petersen is a national expert on open-government issues. She’s been president of the First Amendment Foundation since 1995, when it was started by a group of media organizations and she became its sole employee.

The foundation — of which The Palm Beach Post is a member — promotes the public’s constitutional right to oversee its government through the state’s government-in-the-sunshine and public-records laws. Before taking the job, Petersen was a staff attorney for the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Technology Resources.

The News Service of Florida has a few questions for Barbara Petersen:

QUESTION: You’ve called the 2014 legislative session a “very frustrating” one for government in the sunshine. Why? READ MORE

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Florida First Amendment Foundation Press Release: Askew’s chief of staff challenges blind trust financial disclosure

First Amendment Foundation

 

News Release

May 14, 2014                                                                                          Contact: John Van Gieson
For immediate release                                                        850-212-2179, johnvg@comcast.net

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Saying he was motivated by protecting the late Gov. Reubin Askew’s legacy, Askew’s former chief of staff filed a lawsuit Wednesday urging the Florida Supreme Court to prohibit using blind trusts in place of full financial disclosure.

“Governor Askew’s commitment to full and public financial disclosure is a major part of his legacy,” said former chief of staff Jim Apthorp. “Florida voters supported full disclosure when they overwhelmingly passed Askew’s Sunshine Amendment in 1976. Blind trusts circumvent the full public disclosure mandated by the Constitution, and we’re asking the Supreme Court to prohibit officials from using them to shield sources and amounts of income from the public.”

Apthorp’s petition urged the court to prohibit the use of blind trusts in financial disclosure and order Secretary of State Ken Detzner to refuse to accept the qualifying papers of any candidates who attempt to use blind trusts. It also asked the court to invalidate a 2013 law allowing blind trusts in financial disclosure and displace two Ethics Commission opinions saying that blind trust are an acceptable form of disclosure.

Officials who have used blind trusts in lieu of full public financial disclosure include Gov. Rick Scott and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

“The Sunshine Amendment requires that things be revealed; blind trusts require that things be concealed,” Apthorp’s petition said. “It would be absurd to conclude that the latter is an adequate substitute for the former.”

Apthorp noted that Askew’s Sunshine Amendment prohibits the Legislature from taking any action that would weaken its full and public disclosure requirements.

“The meaning of the Sunshine Amendment is clear: Officials and candidates must disclose their finances in full,” Apthorp said. “That’s what Governor Askew intended, and that’s what the courts have ruled.”

He said Askew aides first discussed the possibility of challenging blind trusts last fall but put off discussing the idea with the former governor because his health was deteriorating. Askew died in March, and Apthorp said former aides and supporters decided at his funeral to honor his legacy by fighting to uphold the full disclosure requirements of the Sunshine Amendment.

He said candidates required to file financial disclosure forms will be qualifying for office next month, raising the possibility that a number of them will subvert full disclosure by using blind trusts.

Apthorp’s lawsuit was filed by former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, who is also former president of the American Bar Association, and his wife and law partner, Patsy Palmer.

Among organizations that are supporting the lawsuit are the First Amendment Foundation and the Florida Press Association.

A copy of the petition is available on the First Amendment Foundation website, www.floridafaf.org.

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Financial News Daily Record: Group wants proof of port jobs claims; says public records laws violated

Financial News Daily Record

By Carole Hawkins, Staff Writer

Calling a study that promises tens of thousands of jobs a “black box,” an environmental law firm filed suit against the Port of Jacksonville and its consultant for not disclosing how deepening the shipping channel to 47 feet would create promised economic benefits.

The Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Circuit Court against JaxPort and its consultant, John Martin & Associates, saying they violated Florida’s Sunshine Law by withholding the data and methodology used in an April 2013 study that predicted port deepening would create 25,500 jobs by 2035.

“We want to make sure the Martin report is reliable,” said Public Trust president Warren Anderson. READ MORE

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WESH.com: Expressway board members testify in open meeting law investigation

WESH

 

ORLANDO, Fla. —An Orange County grand jury heard testimony Thursday in a case that’s targeting some members of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

Several board members are alleged to have broken Sunshine Laws.

Marco Pena, who was appointed to the Expressway by Gov. Rick Scott, Scott Batterson and the Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Noranne Downs voted to oust former Expressway Executive Director Max Crumit.

A WESH 2 News investigation in September revealed text messages and emails that appear to show the three were communicating prior to the meeting, which is potentially a violation of open meeting laws. READ MORE

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The Orlando Sentinel: Firefighters sue Orlando over deputy chief’s texts

Orlando Sentinel

 

By Mark Schlueb, Orlando Sentinel
The Orlando firefighters’ union has sued the city for failing to turn over text messages from a deputy chief’s phone.

In a lawsuit filed in Orange Circuit Court on Wednesday, the union asks a judge to find the city in violation of Florida’s public records law. READ MORE

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Sarasota Herald Tribune: Judge rules officer’s notes on homeless are private

SHT

By Ian Cummings

SARASOTA – A Sarasota police lieutenant does not have to make public his notes from a tour of homeless shelters, a judge ruled on Monday.

Michael Barfield, a Sarasota paralegal, had gone to court against the City of Sarasota in order to force the release of notes that SPD Lt. Kevin Stiff took on a January trip west to inspect homeless shelters in other states.

The trip, in the company of county officials, was public business. Stiff shared some of the notes in public meetings, and Barfield argued that the entirety of the notes should be a public record. Barfield said he wanted the remainder of the notes to inform future debates about a proposed homeless shelter in Sarasota. READ MORE

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Sunshine State News: Five Questions for Barbara Petersen

Sunshine State News

By: MARGIE MENZEL NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Barbara Petersen is a national expert on open-government issues. She’s been president of the First Amendment Foundation since 1995, when it was started by a group of media organizations and she became its sole employee. The foundation promotes the public’s constitutional right to oversee its government through the state’s government-in-the-sunshine and public-records laws. Before taking the job, Petersen had been a staff attorney for the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Technology Resources.

Petersen also sits on the boards of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and the National Freedom of Information Coalition. She served as chair of Florida’s Commission on Open Government Reform, and in 2013, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, appointed her to the User Experience Task Force, which reviewed the state’s transparency websites and made recommendations for improvement. READ MORE

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