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How City of Pensacola public records request system works

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On Feb. 4, I sent City Communications Director Tamara Fountain a request:

We are looking into doing a story on the city’s public record system. I would like to come over to city hall interview Jane and see how the new system works.

And I waited, and I waited, and I waited.

On Saturday, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m., I got this reply from Ms. Fountain:

We are working on open house where all media can review the public records system. We should have invite out mid week.

Twelve days for a very simple request for an interview that will take about 10-15 minutes. And now that request has been turned into a media event.

We have heard over the past few months several complaints about the city’s new public records system. We have requests that are now over a month old –one of which is a report on the outstanding requests in the system as of Dec. 31, 2013. So we can’t even get a list of requests–something which I was told at the last Morning with the Mayor the system could provide.

The current system is much slower the old one and lightyears behind the system under City Manager Al Coby.

A cynic might believe the mayor doesn’t want the public to get its records.

What are your experiences with the city’s new system? Email me your experiences and any outstanding requests you may have. My email is rick@inweekly.net.

Reader Feedback

6 Responses to “How City of Pensacola public records request system works”

  1. phedup says:

    The regime does not want anyone poking around in any records. If someone were to dig they might discover the shell game they’ve been playing with the budget. They have bled the maintenance budgets and diverted the money for their purposes and not for the intended purpose as told to the public and Council. Now they’ve turned the whole ball of wax over to Brian Cooper so he can finish draining off the money to fund his hair brained schemes like hiring a volunteer coordinator. For what? To round up some young Navy recruits, Boy Scouts, and invalid senior citizens to perform the maintenance functions that the maintenance section used to do. I say let the Navy boys protect the National Defense, let the Boy Scouts learn to protect the environment and let the senior citizens enjoy their golden years. Citizens pay taxes for trained, competent City staff to deal with maintenance issues.That was until this regime took over with their progressive agenda. Colleen Castile is still clueless. She doesn’t have the foggiest idea what’s going on.

  2. J e Simon says:

    What does this do to the open sunshine law?

  3. Sheila says:

    So if the charter calls for the Clerk’s office to have care and custody of books, records, legal documents, etc., how can they reside in the Mayor’s office without an official change to the charter and without the consent of the public or council or both? It seems like an overreach of power. A condition that appears to be plaguing citizens on both the national and local levels. What does the Mayor’s office have to say about the change to the charter directive?

  4. John Ellis says:

    How are we suppose to have engaged youths in local government if the “Sunshine Center” is incompatible with Macs?

  5. jeeperman says:

    Mayoral press release, July 7th or 8th, 2013:
    ” I have revised the City of Pensacola’s Public Records Request Policy, purchased software that will help us to track and fill requests, and I have reached out to Barbara Peterson with the First Amendment Foundation to help with extensive training for our employees. It is my goal to reinforce excellence as a part of our culture when it comes to fulfilling public records requests, and I remain steadfast in my insistence on transparency in my administration.”

    It has only been eight months. Da Mayor is most likely still thinking about a task force to study the issue.

  6. CJ Lewis says:

    What did the City Council not know about this new public records program/policy and when did they not know it?

    Hayward’s proposed FY2014 budget approved by the Council did not include Jane Ballard’s “new” position. I only saw it when I took the time to read the approved version of the FY2014 budget, the approved and final versions of the budgets often not the same, noting that the Office of the Mayor had been expanded by one person.

    I called City Clerk Ericka Burnett to ask what had happened. With using these exact words, she explained that Mayor Hayward had stripped the Office of the City Clerk of its role handling public records requests. I was shocked. As far as I know, Hayward took unilateral action without the knowledge or consent of the Council.

    In my experience, the City Clerk and her staff were very diligent in performing this duty and could have done an even better job if properly staffed with another person.

    Like the City Attorney, the City Clerk is not supervised by the Mayor but works jointly for the City Council and the Mayor. Section 5.01 of the Charter explains, “The Clerk shall keep and have the care and custody of the books, records, papers, legal documents and proceedings of the City Council and shall carry out such additional duties as may be required by the Council or the Mayor.”

    Under the new program put in place by Hayward, if I want to find a document held by the City Council, I have to submit a request to the Office of the Mayor. It is insane.

    The worst part is that with the exception of Councilman Bare, no one on the Council seems to see a problem with Mayor Hayward taking private control over such an important function. Most seem as afraid to challenge Hayward over this issue as the other friction points where Hayward has asserted his supremacy over the Council. The PNJ Editorial Board has said nothing.

    If the Council continues to refuse to stand-up to the Mayor, unable or unwilling to direct that the public records function be restored to the independent control of the City Clerk, then the Charter needs to be amended by electors providing for an independent Public Records Officer who is an attorney elected by voters – not appointed by either the Mayor or the City Council – and empowered to request the State Attorney’s Office file criminal charges against any elected and appointed officials of the City who fail or refuse to fully and promptly comply with Florida’s Public Records Laws.

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