The City of Miami Beach just asked the Miami Herald for almost $73,000 to hire one of their employees for a year, just to deliver public records documents related to “human-source fecal marker” and water quality.
Miami Herald reporter Jenny Staletovich requested a series of emails under Florida’s Sunshine Law from the city of Miami Beach about how they’ve been testing water quality after scientists documented that Miami Beach is pumping human waste into the coastal waters of Biscayne Bay at an alarming rate.
“No Transparency, no accountability and feebly attempting to cover it up by concealing public records from the public who pays for them,” Corben wrote to the city’s elected officials, and he finished with a question, “Which begs the question: what are you trying to hide?”
Massive pumps that flush floodwater from Miami Beach into Biscayne Bay during seasonal king tides are dumping something else into the bay: human waste.
A study that looked at tidal floodwater and water discharged from the island’s new pumps during the 2014 and 2015 king tides found live fecal bacteria well above state limits. In one case, levels were more than 600 times the limit. While some of the fecal matter was dog waste, scientists found higher levels of human waste that likely enter floodwaters from leaky old sewer lines or septic tanks.
Now that the Miami Herald is asking for more documents to reveal the city’s of Miami Beach’s efforts on behalf of the public, they replied with a $72,793.53 bill to basically hire the city’s Environmental Resources Manager.
City officials insisted that the Manager needs two minutes to look over each and every email for exemptions even though there is nothing involving litigation, employment records, ongoing police investigations or any of the other possible Sunshine Law exemptions. Staletovich wrote:
To vet the records, the city calculated that Wells, who is paid $39.17 per hour, would need 1,858 hours, or 46 1/2 weeks. The city said it needed to divert a division manager from her job for nearly a full year to comb through public records that a computer tech flagged in less than a day.
This is actually a constructive denial of the public records request, and likely to provoke a lawsuit from the state’s largest newspaper.
Because Florida’s Sunshine Law makes public records access a constitutional right. Florida’s Public Records Act says that cities must provide “reasonable” access, or if they’re sued then they must pay the citizen’s costs of recovery and attorney fees.
And the City of Miami Beach would probably lose pretty badly if this ever goes to court.
Hopefully, Miami Beach doesn’t send a pack of lawyers after PINAC News for reporting on their public records act abuses, because if they ask for a retraction, we’ll pull up the Miami Herald’s firm denial letter as a template, before sending their request into our PINAC Newsroom’s circular filing cabinet.
If you’d like to protest the City of Miami Beach’s intimidation of journalists and flagrantly illegal denial of public records crucial to the clean water surrounding America’s leading resort city, please direct those calls to 305-673-7000.