Senator Wilton Simpson, District 18 — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2014
Rachel Perrin Rogers,
Simpson Receives Opinion from AG Bondi Regarding Private Businesses and Public Records
Yesterday, Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) received a written opinion from Attorney General Pam Bondi regarding Section 119.0701, Florida Statutes. This statute relates to public records requirements for private business owners who enter into contracts with government agencies.
“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,” said Simpson.
The opinion provided by Attorney General Bondi yesterday 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 agency. The only circumstance that results in the public records law applying to private companies is one in which the contractor or business is “acting on behalf of the public agency.”
“The opinion outlines several scenarios based on case law about what ‘acting on behalf of a public agency’ constitutes, and I encourage people to read it in full. I am grateful to the Attorney General for publishing this opinion as I believe it will prevent unnecessary lawsuits, and a lift a significant burden off the backs of Florida’s job creators. I plan to file legislation relating to this issue in the 2015 Session,” concluded Simpson.