A Florida journalist is suing a clerk of courts over fees charged to view public records. Gina Edwards, a reporter for the online publication Watchdog City Press in Naples, Florida, filed a lawsuit this week, challenging what she calls an illegal and retaliatory fee for electronic public records charged to her by the county's Clerk of Courts, following publication of her investigative stories. RTDNA Chair-Elect Amy Tardif, station manager and news director at WGCU-FM in Fort Myers, wrote this letter in support of Edwards:
February 26, 2014
The Hon. Dwight Brock
Collier Clerk of Courts:
P.O. Box 413044
Naples, FL 34101-3044
Dear Mr. Brock:
I am writing on behalf of the membership of RTDNA, the nation’s largest professional association of electronic journalists in support of the efforts by journalist Gina Edwards to obtain public records from your office at a reasonable cost and one in compliance with Florida law.
The $1 per page fee levied by your office to comply with Ms. Edward’s request is a clear violation of Florida Public Records Law F.S. 119, which mandates such a fee be no higher than 15-cents per page in most cases.
RTDNA believes in fair and affordable access to public information, as required by Florida statute. We believe the $556 total cost charged for these records by your office is clearly outside both the intent and the actual definition of the law.
RTDNA joins with the Naples Press Club in requesting your reconsideration of this fee. Exorbitant fee structures and other tactics serve only to stymie efforts by journalists such as Ms. Edwards in her efforts to encourage transparency and provide for governmental accountability. We request your office review this decision immediately and implement changes in the fee structure so as to comply with Florida law. Further, we would request the Collier County Clerk’s office revise all similar policies as they may exist today so as to prevent this issue from arising in the future.