Michael Mayo offers up latest proof that while Broward State Attorney Mike Satz continues sleeping on the job, Florida's Sunshine Laws are meaningless for Florida's citizens; Keith Poliakoff makes like Icarus -power-dive!
How completely unsurprising to discover that the heavy-hand in this ridiculous matter belongs to Keith Poliakoff. Someone, perhaps a family member or friend I suppose, once thought he was so important, so very important, that 'someone' created an entry for him on Wikipedia.
Now even if you are reading this from somewhere in South Florida, much less, somewhere else in the U.S or overseas, you're probably asking yourself, "Why would a Broward County-based lobbyist and mouthpiece for land developers, and the city attorney of insignificant SW Ranches, a town that 99% of South Florida would never have a reason to visit, merit an entry in Wikipedia?"
Well, it turns out that he didn't merit one, because they yanked that entry after someone paying close attention to what goes on around Broward County, invoked a Wiki rule that the entry "Doesn't indicate importance or significance of a real person."
Whoever you are who sent up that flare so that Keith Poliakoff, like Icarus, could be brought back down to earth with a thud, thank you on behalf of people who are on the front-lines of Florida's Sunshine Laws, even while most of the people drawing a government salary who are supposed to be helping us are sleeping on the job!
Tack sa mycket!
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Southwest Ranches shouldn't be rewarded for thwarting Sunshine Law
Activist's attempt to photograph records turns into $17,000 legal headache
Michael Mayo, Sun Sentinel Columnist
7:54 PM EDT, March 28, 2012
How's this for outrageous: A town violates a citizen's rights and Florida's public records law, then goes after the victim for $17,000 in legal costs after a judge dismisses the aggrieved citizen's lawsuit.
It's a chilling tale, one that should concern anyone who cares about freedom and good government.
"We're gonna lose our country if this stuff is allowed to stand," Southwest Ranches resident Bill Di Scipio told me.
Much coverage has focused on the pittance Di Scipio sued for: $1.25, the amount he grudgingly paid for eight photocopies after his lawful bid to snap his own iPhone photos of public records was halted by the town clerk last October. Florida's public records law clearly allows files that are open for inspection to be photographed.
Thus Di Scipio's lawsuit, filed in November. He had formed a group opposing a proposed federal immigration detention center in his small town on Broward's western fringe. He said he's encountered roadblocks and delays trying to gather information. Like many activists, he can be passionate and pushy.
This month, Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy dismissed the lawsuit. Di Scipio said he plans to appeal. The town argued the clerk's actions became moot when it belatedly agreed that Di Scipio could photograph the records.
A few weeks ago, town attorney Keith Poliakoff said Southwest Ranches would seek to recover $20,000 in legal fees from Di Scipio. Poliakoff said in this case the prevailing side can bill the loser for costs.
"It should serve as a lesson: don't sue unless you have a case," Poliakoff said.
But to me, the town seems to be delivering a more sinister message: If you dare fight city hall, you might have to pay dearly.
"It's harassment and intimidation," said John McKnight, Di Scipio's attorney.
On Wednesday, Poliakoff said the amount might be around $17,000, with a "few thousand" in hard costs like filing fees and court reporters, but he didn't provide a detailed breakdown. The final amount will be set by the judge.
I'm still scratching my head how there's such a big bill on a small case that never went to trial. It took me less than an hour to read the case file; the town's dismissal motion was seven pages. Poliakoff said his lawyers spent a lot of time reading Di Scipio's website.
I requested a fee breakdown from Poliakoff, but didn't hear back. The town took depositions from Di Scipio's wife and another activist. An attorney for Corrections Corp. of America, which wants to build the detention center, sat in on one deposition.
"They were asking for things that had nothing to do with my case — they wanted the source code for our website," Di Scipio said. "They were raping us for information."
Said Poliakoff: "That's what discovery is — a fishing expedition for anything we can use in a defense. He's the one who sued."
Di Scipio said he sued so the town would "stop playing games" with public records law. Poliakoff said the town didn't violate anyone's rights and called the suit "frivolous."
I call the outcome dangerous. Southwest Ranches initially thwarted the law. It shouldn't be rewarded for it.
The Official Anti-Mike Satz website: http://www.mikesatz.com/