letter to the editor

An Open Letter To State Attorney Catherine Vogel


I need your help. Specifically, I need your help in convincing Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter and the Monroe County School District to comply with Florida law and fulfill my public records requests. You have some awareness of this situation because I began copying you recently on my correspondence with the District and its representatives.

On May 30, 2015, I filed three public records requests with the District. One was an original request and two were follow-ups to previous requests. The District promptly acknowledged the three requests on June 3, 2015. Unfortunately, that is the last communication that I have had from any representative of the School District.

After a few weeks passed with no communication, I did send two polite reminders to Superintendent Porter, reminders that went unacknowledged. At that point, I reached out to District counsel Dirk Smits for his advice and assistance as to how to best proceed.

I emphasized in my two emails to Mr. Smits that my desire was to obtain the requisite documents in a cooperative and congenial fashion and that I did not wish to be confrontational with the District. Much like Superintendent Porter, Mr. Smits ignored my emails and a phone call. I also reached out to a member of the School Board without any more success.

I have run out of avenues for resolving my problem other than litigation, hence my reaching out to you. I have taken the District to court before on its failure to respond to public records requests and the District was successfully sued during the past year for its failure to respond timely to another’s public records request. To litigate strikes me as wholly unnecessary. It is a waste of the court’s time and the taxpayers’ money. Should we litigate, the School District will incur legal fees and, should I prevail as I most likely will, it will have to pay my legal bills as well.

I am not asking you to bring charges against the District, though that would be nice. What I am politely requesting of you is that you use the power of your office to informally remind the Superintendent of Schools of his obligations as “custodian of public records” for the School District to comply with Florida law and fulfill promptly any public records request.

Anything that you can do to resolve this dilemma short of litigation will be most appreciated.

Larry Murray

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