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Senator Wilton Simpson, District 18 — Press Release


January 5, 2015

CONTACT: Rachel Perrin Rogers, 850.487.5018

Simpson & Beshears File Legislation to Stop Public Records Scam

Tallahassee, Fla. —

Today, Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and Representative Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello) filed Senate Bill 224 and House Bill 163. This legislation will put an end to the harassment of business owners who contract with state and local governments.

“Many Florida business owners contract with and perform services for public agencies,” said Senator Simpson. “Over the summer, I learned that across Florida, individuals are approaching some of these businesses to make public records requests for only one purpose: creating confusion for the business owners that leads to frivolous lawsuits to obtain cash settlements,” said Senator Simpson. “The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) uncovered details about these cases that are deeply troubling. I am an unwavering supporter of comprehensive public access laws so citizens can hold their government accountable. In these cases though, it is clear that the rights of private citizens and hardworking business owners are being trampled by some unscrupulous people bent on getting rich off a new scam.”

“In each case that I’ve reviewed, government agencies have the records that are being requested,” said Rep. Beshears. “Instead of simply asking the records custodian at the state agency, spam-like emails are sent or even worse, intimidating individuals wearing cameras go onto private property and make demands of office staff that have had no training in our public records laws. This isn’t right and we’ve got to put an end to it.”

“Such abuses have cost businesses and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars; money that should have been spent providing services to citizens,” said Beth Rawlins, President of Florida Business Watch, a non-profit trade association for government contractors. “This bill protects the citizen’s right to know, while also protecting contractors from bad actors scamming the system to line their own pockets.”