"We strongly encourage all citizens to get involved in this community"

From:”Dianne Gardner” <dtgardner@cfl.rr.com>
Freedom of Information, Rationale for the FOI and Fees in Florida

freedomInfo3Dear Pat,
Questions have been posed on the Port-Orange.us blog about the Gardner’s use or perhaps a frivolous misuse of the Freedom of Information Act in our city.  This is my response:
The right to freedom of information is based on the fundamental premise that a government is supposed to serve the people. Information has been called ‘the oxygen of democracy’, essential for openness, accountability and good governance.
I have sourced any link taken from the Internet.  If anyone would like to contact either Mike or me, we would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee and tell them exactly why we do what we do. We used to be observers of our city government at a distance. Then we had an event that affected us directly.  Now we are committed to our own personal involvement and open, responsive and transparent government in Port Orange. For everyoneOur commitment is to fairness, uniformity of treatment and equal access for all. 
We strongly encourage all citizens to get involved in this community.  Come to our City Council meetings or at a minimum watch on POG TV Channel 199 on Brighthouse. Become familiar with how your tax dollar is being spent and the positions of our mayor and council on critical issues that are before them that affect you directly.   Get to know our candidates running for office.  They are given time to speak every week at Council meetings to introduce themselves and discuss their positions on various topics before the council.  City Council meetings are the lst, 3rd and 4thTuesdays at 6:30 PM.  Any citizen can speak to our mayor and council for 3 minutes.  Nothing is required except that you show up and sign in with the City Clerk with your topic.  It’s called Citizen Non Agenda Participation.
Become familiar with the City of Port Orange’s website. There is a wealth of information on that site.  Our City Clerk is Robin Fenwick. She and her staff would be glad to answer any questions about Government in the Sunshine, the Freedom of Information act, how citizens can utilize it and any associated fees.  They can answer any question too about how to negotiate the website.  Robin and her staff are unfailingly courteous, professional and impartial.  Robin or a member of her staff can be reached at: 386-506-5563.I love Port Orange. Its a wonderful little city.   I have lived in Volusia 45 years, am a Florida native, UCF graduate, a former social worker and business owner.  I will die at my house at 618 Ruth Street here in Port Orange.  And…I want to do my civic duty as I now see it.  That is my right as an American.  Whether anyone agrees with me or not I hope is immaterial. My hope is that they will defend my right to follow my conscience in all situations, no matter what, because that is the American Way.
Please feel free to call either Mike or me.  Anytime.  We live at 618 Ruth Street, Port Orange, 32127. Mike: 386-527-1959; Dianne: 386-527-1641. RE coffee:  We only drink Folgers. We have cookies. And exotic creamers. My mother in law insists we keep those on hand at all times. 🙂
Data and links about the FOI:
Rationale for FOI:
Access to information has been increasingly recognized as a prerequisite for transparency and accountability of governments, as facilitating consumers’ ability to make informed choices, and as safeguarding citizens against mismanagement and corruption.
• enables people to have informed opinions and to engage in full and open debate
• ensures governments are scrutinized, thereby becoming more open, transparent and accountable and delivering good governance
• enables elections to be free and fair by informing the electorate
• Enables journalists and civil society to expose corruption and wrongdoing. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously noted, “A little sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
• enables people to access their own personal information, a valuable part of respecting basic human dignity
• enables people to make effective personal decisions, such as in medical treatment or financial planning
• Facilitates the effective business practices by creating a culture of bureaucratic openness and providing information that can be useful for enterprise.
Below from Ballotpedia.org
Who may request public records?
Any person may request public documents in Florida. “It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records shall be open for personal inspection by any person.
 How much do public records cost?
A government agency may charge fees for records requested under the act:
• A copying fee may be charged. It should be limited to the actual copying cost, except in cases where the law sets a specific fee. In addition, if there is no specific law regarding fees, the records office may charge up to 15 cents per one-sided copy for duplicated copies of not more than legal size paper. They may charge no more than an additional 5 cents for each two-sided copy and the actual cost of duplication of the public record for all other copies.
• The “actual cost of duplication” is defined. Section 119.07(1)(a) says that it means “the cost of materials and supplies used to duplicate the record but it does not include the labor costs or overhead costs associated with such duplication.”
• Generally, the fee should not exceed 15 cents for copies, if the copies are 8.5 x 14 inches or less
• The Florida Attorney General said in an opinion that “providing access to public records is a statutory duty imposed upon all record custodians and should not be considered a revenue-generating operation.”
Special service charges
Special service charges over-and-above copying fees are permitted in some circumstances:
• According to a 1995 statute, this fee is intended for those times when the records requested “require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency.”
• “Information technology resources” is defined as “data processing hardware and software and services, supplies, personnel, facility resources, maintenance and training, or other related resources.”
• Charges levied under this 1995 statute are supposed to reflect the actual costs of the agency that does the work.
• These charges are not supposed to be levied for routine requests.
Freedom of information
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and this includes the right to seek, impart and receive information. This right to freedom of information is key to:
• achieving many other rights
• securing democracy
• enabling development.
Governments and public bodies hold masses of important information. They hold it on behalf of the public and should therefore:
• proactively publish information in the public interest
• provide open access to people wanting specific information.
In 1990, only 13 countries had laws which provided such access. Today, more than 95 countries (with over five billion inhabitants) have laws giving a general right to access information held by public bodies. International bodies such as the World Bank and the regional development banks have also adopted information disclosure polices.
Link to 2014 Manual Government in the Sunshine Manual.  OR …I would be glad to email it to anyone.  Its a PDF.
Dianne’s email is:  dtgardner@cfl.rr.com
First Amendment Foundation link below:

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