October 20, 2005


Ms. Debby Thomas

Public Information

Office of the State Attorney

Palm Beach County

401 North Dixie Highway

West Palm Beach, Florida 33401


RE:     Public Records Request of October 12, 2005


Dear Ms. Thomas:


            In your letter dated October 17, 2005 you state in pertinent part:


“Based on your prior request which was much less in scope, we anticipate the cost [of production of your public records request] to exceed $10,000.00.” 


            You also request a deposit of $5,000.00 before beginning work on any production of records. 


            Landmark Legal Foundation (“Landmark”) has reviewed its previously submitted public records requests and has concluded that your office is attempting to avoid its statutory obligations by gouging Landmark and discouraging any further production requests.  Your October 17, 2005 letter provides no justifications for the charges that you anticipate will exceed $10,000.  This estimate appears to be way out of bounds. 


            We refer you to the case Carden v. Chief of Police, City of Clewiston Police Dep’t, 696 So. 2nd 772 (Fl. App. Ct. 1996), in which a Florida Court of Appeals held that “an excessive charge could well serve to inhibit the pursuit of rights conferred by the Public Records Act.”  Additionally, § 119.07 of the Florida Statutes requires that charges be “reasonable” and that a government body to whom a request is made “should be required to explain” the reasoning behind a high assessment.  Id.


Landmark has had difficulty working with your office in the past.  In a previous instance, Landmark was provided with information pursuant to a public records request only after such information was distributed to the media. 


 In light of these legal obligations and the fact that your office has proved difficult to work with, Landmark requests that you provide an itemization of any charges that you anticipate Landmark will incur.  Specifically, how would an initial deposit of $5,000.00 be allocated; the expected rate incurred for assigning fulltime personnel to process the request; the universe of information that will be searched; and any other issues that justify such a large estimated cost for production.  It is not enough to simply throw out a cost figure without your office having made the effort to justify it in some detail.


            Moreover, since the material Landmark seeks may be relevant in any future ethical or criminal investigation, Landmark requests that your office take immediate steps to preserve any possible sources of information including electronic data, hard copy documents, hard drives, data storage servers, or any other medium used to store information.


            You also state that the production of requested materials would take months.  Again, you provide no explanation for this assertion.  Why should it take months?  Most of the material we seek should be readily available – telephonic records, expense reports, email communications, etc.  Moreover, there is no reason your office can’t roll out the production of materials rather than waiting to provide them en masse.  Therefore, we require a further explanation in this regard.  


            Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter.






                                                                        Mark R. Levin