During recent discussions with public officials from various state and local agencies, it has become clear that many agencies have the mistaken impression liability in public records matters is limited to an agency’s response to a public records request.
While it is important that an agency provide a lawful response to any public records request, that it is not the only time an agency runs the risk of litigation relating to public records. There are other instances where an agency may be, unwittingly, creating liabilities stemming from its public records obligations.
Ironically, these lesser known instances, which have nothing to do with public records requests, have the potential for much greater economic and political liability than does the typical public records lawsuit. If you are not aware of these potential liabilities, please find someone to help your agency identify them so remedial measures can be taken.
Open government matters. It’s the law; voters have demanded it, and; it will build public trust in your agency.
Up to this Point
Up to this point I’ve been helping Floridians gain access to public records and open meetings.
Since 2008, I’ve worked with individuals, civil rights groups, student organizations, bloggers, newspapers, radio and television broadcasters. My help has come in the form of educational seminars and training, brainstorming sessions, planning campaigns and organizing protests. I’ve also done public records research for law firms, media outlets and national civil rights organizations. Along the way, I’ve given scores of media interviews and been an “on background” source for local and national media outlets on numerous stories.
Unfortunatly, civil litigation has been a major part of my work. That’s because, current statutory construction doesn’t provide any other meainingful options. When a citizen’s access to public records has been frustrated, they can either live with it or litigate. As a result, I’ve filed more public records lawsuits than I care to count.
Moving forward, I hope I can work with public agencies and government contractors to improve public access to records and meetings. I’d be delighted if I never had to file another public records lawsuit.
Of course, I will continue to make myself available to assist citizens; and, when not conflicted by established relationships with agencies, I will continue to be a source for the media.
What I Bring to the Table
What I bring to the table is extensive experience with open government issues. I can provide critical insights that will allow public agencies to deliver better customer service to their constituents, improve transparency, identify hidden liabilities, and reduce the risk of civil litigation relating to public records and open meetings shortcomings.
In addition to risk management, I offer open government training, practical problem-solving, creative ideas for improving constituent relations, and real-world strategies for deescalating encounters with activists and protesters.
To be clear, I haven’t changed sides. I am as committed to open government and civil rights issues as I have always been. If your agency is looking for help in skirting the law or finding work-arounds to the Public Records Act, I am definitely not your guy. If, however, your agency wants to improve compliance, increase transparency and show respect for the rights of your constituents, I’d love to be a part of helping you make that happen.
If you are a public official, I hope that you will allow me to come along side and work with you and your agency. Working together, I’m confident we can improve public records and open meetings compliance and, as a result, increase public confidence in your agency.
My services to agencies and government contractors are fee-based.* To schedule a free initial consultation, please contact me directly. I can be reached by telephone at (863) 660-4244, or; by email at joelchandler@FOGWatch.org.
* I am willing to provide my services with no remuneration of any kind, on the condition that all agency personnel involved also agree to work without remuneration throughout the process.
I am not an attorney. I am not authorized nor am I qualified to give legal advice to members of the public, so I don’t. If you need legal advice, please contact a member of your state Bar Association.
© Copyright 2017 Joel Chandler. All rights reserved.