Following a spurt of lawsuits against private businesses for refusing to fulfill public records requests from members of the public, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi has weighed in.
In a letter sent to Senator Wilton Simpson (R-New Port Richey) on June 18, General Bondi clarified that not all businesses are required to accept or fulfill public records requests – only those businesses who are “acting on behalf” of the government agency are tied to the statute.
“Many Florida business owners contract with and perform services for public agencies,” said Senator Simpson. “Last month, it was brought to my attention that there have been individuals approaching business owners for the purpose of making public records requests. While I strongly believe our comprehensive public access laws should provide citizens with the information that they need to monitor governmental agencies and their expenditure of public funds, I was very concerned that due to the lack of clarity relating to this law, the rights of private citizens and hardworking business owners were being jeopardized. In an effort to gather more information, my staff reached out to the First Amendment Foundation, and it was suggested that an AG Opinion on this issue would be helpful for all involved.”
The opinion provided by General Bondi last week makes it clear that simply having a contract with a government agency does not mean that the provisions of Chapter 119 apply to a business. In many cases there may be no obligation for a business to accept or fulfill records requests directly from the public. As always, public records are available from the state agencies.
Click Here to View the Attorney General’s Opinion: