The Florida Legislature enacted laws affecting local governments during the 2016 Session. One of them relates to public records requests to local government contractors. Local government and business law attorneys should ensure their clients follow these new statutory requirements.
Chapter 2016-20, Laws of Florida, amends Section 119.0701, Fla. Stat., by requiring public records requests related to contract for services with a public agency to be made directly to the public agency instead of the contractor. If the public agency does not possess the records, it must immediately notify the contractor of the request. The contractor must then provide the records to the public agency or allow the records to be inspected or copied within a reasonable time. A contractor who fails to provide the requested information within a reasonable time may be subject to penalties under Section 119.10, Fla. Stat.
Pursuant to the new law, a public agency must include a statement in contracts for services informing the contractor of the contact information of the public agency’s record custodian. The statement must also instruct the contractor to contact the record custodian with any questions regarding the contractor’s duty to provide public records. The following language, in at least 14-point boldfaced type, should be included in contracts for services entered into or amended on or after July 1, 2016:
“IF THE CONTRACTOR HAS QUESTIONS REGARDING THE APPLICATION OF CHAPTER 119, FLORIDA STATUTES, TO THE CONTRACTOR’S DUTY TO PROVIDE PUBLIC RECORDS RELATING TO THIS CONTRACT, CONTACT THE CUSTODIAN OF PUBLIC RECORDS AT … (telephone number, e-mail address, and mailing address).”
Contracts for services must also address whether the contractor will retain the public records or transfer them to the public agency after the completion of the contract. If the contractor keeps the public records, it must follow all requirements for retaining such records, including nondisclosure of confidential or exempt records.
With the advance of electronic filing and paperless offices, attorneys and paralegals use Adobe Acrobat Pro on a daily basis. Not only can you turn a Word document into a PDF, but you can also use it to sign, redact and Bates stamp documents. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to use these tree basic features with Adobe Acrobat XI Pro.
Save time and paper! Instead of printing, signing, scanning and then emailing your electronic document, sign your document directly with Adobe Acrobat Pro. Under Fill & Sign, select Place Signature. You have several options to create a signature:
Redaction is often used for litigation and public record requests. Once done, there is no going back. So don’t forget to save a copy of the original document before you redact it. Under Tools, select Protection and click Mark for Redaction. With your mouse, select the text you want to redact and click Apply Redaction. If you are looking for specific words to redact, use the Search and Remove Text function. You can also change the Redaction Properties if you want to pick a different color or add text over the redacted elements. You can even refer to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act provisions.
Bates numbering is used to organize and find litigation documents. Under Tools, go to Pages. Click on Bates Numbering and select Add Bates Numbering. On the top left corner of the window, click Add Files. Then you have the option to add files, folders or use open files. Let’s say your documents are already open. Click on Add Open Files. Select which open files you want to Bates number. When you’re done click OK. You can then format the numbering by choosing the font style, size and color. After selecting where you want the Bates numbering to appear on each page, click on Insert Bates Number. Select the number of digits and the start number. Add a prefix or suffix, if necessary, and click OK. A Bates numbering preview will appear. If everything looks good, click OK and Adobe Acrobat Pro will apply the Bates numbering to your documents.
Hope this quick tutorial was helpful. If you have any questions, comment below.
Are you looking for public records and sunshine laws? The Government-In-The-Sunshine Manual, a yearly publication written by the First Amendment Foundation, covers in great details the who, what, when, where and how of open government laws. It also provides for recourses and consequences when a public board or agency fails to apply public records and sunshine laws.
This is one thing they don’t teach you in law school (or paralegal school for that matter) even though it’s often part of your daily tasks. You learn how to find public records on the job, often at your client’s expense. The good thing is, it’s a lot easier and quicker to perform public records searches now than 10 years ago. You don’t have to go on a special trip to your local courthouse or send your request by snail mail. Most public records are now a click away. Below are some of my favorite local and statewide websites for free public records searches.
Clerk of Court
Your local clerk of court website offers a wide range of records. Court records generally include civil, criminal and traffic court matters. You can also find records related to real property transactions, liens, plats, marriage, divorce and death.
The property appraiser website is the best place to look for real property information. For each real property, it lists the parcel control number, current and past owners, recent transactions, appraisals, structure details, a map and basic tax information.
The tax collector website provides tax information related to real property, tangible property and businesses. This is where you can find if someone’s taxes are due!
Division of Corporations of the Department of State
In Florida, the website is called Sunbiz. This is where you can find corporate records and filings. You can locate a company’s filing date, status, address, registered agent and members. You can also perform a business name search to see if the name is already used.
Still can’t find what you are looking for? Don’t forget to look at federal websites such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for public companies information and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for patent and trademark searches.
Now it’s your turn. Which free public records website do you use on a regular basis?
Have you heard about the Sunshine Law? No, it doesn’t refer to Florida’s beautiful weather, but to openness in government. Open government is necessary to ensure public trust, promote accountability and strengthen democracy. Open government is achieved by giving citizens access to government meetings and by making available for inspection public records. These rights are established in Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, and Chapters 286 and 119 of the Florida Statutes.
Government In The Sunshine Law
Florida’s Sunshine Law provides a basic right of access to most government proceedings of public boards, commissions and other governing bodies at both the state and local levels. It applies to elected and appointed boards, and to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss matters that will come before the board for action. The Sunshine Law lists three basic requirements:
Public Records Law
The Public Records Law provides for a right of access to state and local government records or records of any private entity acting on their behalf. In the absence of a statutory exemption, the right to access applies to all material made or received by an agency in connection with its official business. Over the years, the definition of public records has evolved to include not just written documents, but also photographs, films, sound recordings and records stored in computers.
If you would like more information on these topics, the Government-In-The-Sunshine Manual, a yearly publication written by the First Amendment Foundation, covers in great details the who, what, when, where and how of open government laws. It also provides for recourses and consequences when a public board or agency fails to apply public records and sunshine laws.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.