The Deltona City Clerk’s office regularly faces an exorbitant amount of records requests, officials have said.
The office is so inundated with requests that the proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes two new full-time administrative assistant positions.
While it’s too early to determine whether the positions will be approved, John Peters III, acting city manager, is hoping a presentation by the First Amendment Foundation will help everyone, residents and city employees alike, get on the same page with public records.
The Tallahassee-based nonprofit monitors Florida’s public records and open meeting laws, and works to educate government officials and the public to “promote the public’s constitutional right to oversee and to participate in the governance process.”
The nonprofit’s executive director, Pamela Marsh, and its staff attorney, Virginia Hamrick, will join the city virtually to lead the presentation and discussion at 5:30 p.m. during Mo City Commission workshop at City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd.
The presentation doesn’t cost anything outside of the city’s membership with the nonprofit, which is $300 annually.
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Peters, who has been at the city’s helm for six months, said there have been complaints through the years about the process, such as the deposit once the cost of the request has been determined.
“A lot of people don’t think they should have to pay to get documents,” Peters said. “A lot of people think we should have all of our records online.”
The state’s law on public records, which Hamrick said will be discussed at the workshop, accounts for fees and charges for extensive use.
The fee provision allows for charges of no more than 15 cents for paper copies up to 8.5 inches by 14 inches, plus another 5 cents for two-sided copies. Additionally, the law allows agencies to assess a reasonable fee for the extensive use of agency resources, such as personnel or information technology.
Hamrick said the presentation will include guidance from the foundation on how to frame requests for records to lower fees.
The presentation also will cover: what constitutes a public record; the retention of electronic communications; who’s responsible for the custody of records; who can make requests; and the procedural requirements for fulfilling requests.
Hamrick said they will also address the presumption of openness and access, to which only the legislature may create an exemption.
“It’s great we do have access to government information, and Florida is known for its Sunshine Law,” Hamrick said.
The legislature, however, seems to be chipping away at what’s accessible each year, Hamrick said.
Commissioner David Sosa requested this specific workshop, according to the agenda.
“I believe public records are important documents and they’re critical to the transparency of our city,” Sosa said.
Peters said it’s generally just a few individuals who flood the office with requests.
“I think we’ll have a very vibrant discussion on Monday night,” Peters said.