Before his election to the Manatee County school board in November 2012, attorney Dave Miner spent countless hours and years on education issues -- commenting at board meeting, collecting videotapes of those discussion and assembling binders of district documents. He badgered the board and district for accountability.
At that time, he served as a relentless advocate of open government, forever petitioning the district for public documents that he and everyone else had a right to scrutinize.
Today, though, he has violated those noble principles -- by not complying with Sunshine Law requirements. His personal records, emails primarily, that deal with district matters are documents the public has a right to access.
But Miner's continuing delays in turning over those records has prompted a Sunshine lawsuit. In September, Chad Ritchie of Sarasota Security Patrol made a public records request for a variety of Miner's telephone calls and emails. Two other entities made identical requests at the same time, but only Ritchie filed a lawsuit over Miner's delaying tactics.
Here we are almost five months later, and Miner has yet to produce those records.
Ritchie's lawsuit involves the district's contract with his company for private security guards at dozens of elementary schools and Miner's strong opposition to the arrangement.
In a March 17 email response to a Miner query, attorney Mark Barnebey refuted the school board member's position that money should be advanced to cover his costs of producing the records. Cost is the sticking point for Miner. Barnebey also wrote: "I continue to be concerned with the time it has taken to respond to this public records request." Indeed, that's the crux of this.
Once named as one of the select few to be cited by the Florida First Amendment Foundation as a member of the Sunshine Brigade, Miner can no longer lay claim to such a lofty title.
The school district has already complied by supplying plaintiffs with official district emails but cannot access Miner's private accounts. Someone who is acknowledged as a Sunshine expert should not be delaying legitimate publice records requests. Miner told this editorial board on Friday the records in question should be available in some 10 business days. We'll see.
Climate change deniers
There's a new wrinkle to Gov. Rick "I am not a scientist" Scott's refusal to acknowledge climate change -- fresh on the heels of his administration's unwritten policy banning the mere mention of the phrase and others. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is cracking down on state governments that deny man-made climate change by withholding disaster preparedness funds.
Only states that adopt hazard mitigation plans that deal with climate risks will receive those dollars. Think flooding in South Florida and elsewhere as ocean levels rise as well as other damaging impacts.
Florida got some $260 million in disaster planning funds between 2010 and 2014.
While critics of global warming point to this winter's bone-chilling weather and snowfall in the continental United States as evidence against the idea, climate scientists point to global warming as the culprit. Plus, the winter of 2014-15 was the warmest on record worldwide, according to the state of the climate report released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Wednesday.
Gov. Scott, embrace the evidence, not the politics.
Three cool developments
This week's ground-breaking for the long-awaited Fort Hamer Bridge, a vital East Manatee link between Parrish and Lakewood Ranch and a key hurricane evacuation route, finally occurred.
State College of Florida's Fire Brain Bowl team won the championship at the Florida College System Activities Association competition. SCF's Ice team placed sixth out of the 10 teams. Smart young adults, all.
The Bradenton Housing Authority put out word this week that the agency seeks partnerships for a program to assist residents on public assistance help them improve their lives, from learning job interview and resume writing skills to computer and financial literacy. Great idea.
Quote of the week
"There is a 2017 sales tax that needs to pass to continue to fund this district. Without public trust, in my opinion, this district will face certain serious financial challenges."
-- Manatee County School District Staff Attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum commenting on the report he will forward to the Florida Attorney General's Office that claims bid tampering in a 2009 sales tax bond.