Florida Supreme Court Hears Jacksonville Pension Records Case


The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing a case centered on public records requests and the Jacksonville public safety pension system.

The dispute is between the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund and a resident who says he was charged exorbitant fees to gain access to public pension records – records which are supposed to be available to the public at reasonable cost.

Background on the case, from the Florida Times-Union:

The case began in 2009 when [Jacksonville resident Curtis] Lee, a frequent critic of the pension fund, was told he would have to pay $326 before he could review documents that were sitting on a table at the pension fund office.

Lee was then told he would have to pay $280 in advance so that a staff member could watch over him while he reviewed records for up to eight hours. Pension fund managers then wanted Lee to pay $27.66 an hour for another employee to make copies of Lee’s public record’s request.

Lee sued, arguing that the pension fund was excessively charging him in an attempt to discourage him from seeing documents that are subject to the state’s Government in the Sunshine Law. Circuit Judge James Daniel agreed that Lee had been overcharged but declined to award him attorney fees, saying that the pension fund didn’t knowingly violate public records laws.

An appeals court then sided with Lee, and ordered the pension fund to reimburse Lee for his legal fees. The fund appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.


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Dispute Over Closed-Door Pension Meetings Could Go to Florida Supreme Court

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Did pension officials violate Florida’s Sunshine Law when they held negotiations with unions behind closed doors?

Yes, according to the 1st District Court of Appeal. But the Florida Supreme Court may soon get its chance to weigh in.

From the Jacksonville Daily Record:

A Jacksonville municipal pension fund has asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about whether officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law by holding closed-door mediation sessions to negotiate changes in the pension system.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in October ruled in favor of Florida Times-Union Editor Frank Denton, who contended in a lawsuit that the mediation sessions amounted to collective-bargaining meetings, which were required to be open to the public.

But the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to review the case.

The brief argues that issues related to collective bargaining should be determined by the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission, rather than going to circuit court.

The appeals court ruling upheld a decision by Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace.

The case stemmed from mediation sessions that were held after Randall Wyse, chief negotiator for the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters Local 122, and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city and the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees, according to the ruling.

The mediation sessions led to a tentative agreement about changes in the pension system.


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