Legal Report, October 2014
General Counsel, Trela J. White
1. Chandler v. City of Greenacres, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1232 (Fla 4th DCA, June 20, 2014)
Joel Edward Chandler anonymously emailed the City on multiple occasions requesting certain public documents. The City Clerk responded to all emails notifying the sender to fill out a form on the City website in order to obtain the documents. The City required the form so that it had an address or other identifiable source of payment for the associated production costs. No form was filled out and five months later, Chandler emailed again requesting the documents. The City Clerk again informed the sender that the City’s form had to be filled out in order to determine the cost of production of the documents. Chandler filed a petition for writ of mandamus demanding production of the public records, and also seeking attorney’s fees and costs under the Public Records Act. The Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded that the City could not condition the disclosure of public records on filling out the form, and the estimated costs to produce the documents should have been emailed to the anonymous sender. The Court held that a person requesting access to or copies of public records cannot be required to disclose his name, address, telephone number or other identifying information prior to releasing the records unless the public records custodian is required by law to collect such information. The City Clerk in this case was not required by state statute to collect such information.
2. Ocean Palm Golf Club Partnership v. City of Flagler Beach, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1151 (Fla. 5th DCA, June 6, 2014)
A landowner owned an old golf course parcel and a vacant condo parcel situated within the golf course parcel. After multiple failed attempts to develop the condo parcel, the landowner applied for a comprehensive plan land use amendment to allow the development of single-family homes on both the golf course parcel and the condo parcel. The City rejected the plan amendment and the landowner sued arguing a taking. The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that it was within the City’s discretion to reject the plan amendment. The City’s refusal to amend the comprehensive plan did not interfere with the landowner’s reasonable investment-backed expectations of the recreational use of the property as a golf course. The Court held that even if golf courses had become unprofitable in the current market, there was no taking. The Court wrote: “In effect, the [landowner’s] position is that if a landowner buys a piece of property and the economy later takes a downturn, resulting in the frustration of the landowner’s expectations, then the government must act as a guarantor for the landowner’s investment after it becomes unprofitable due to, not the zoning regulations, but outside market forces. This is not the purpose of eminent domain law.”
3. Town of Gulf Stream et al vs. Palm Beach County, and Sharon R. Bock, as Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Intervenor Case No. 502011CA017953XXXXMB. Inspector General Funding Lawsuit.
Fourteen municipalities sued Palm Beach County challenging the method of funding for the Inspector General Program (the “OIG Program”). The current funding method authorizes the Board of County Commissioners to set an amount the municipalities must pay for the OIG Program and to bill municipalities for that amount. The municipalities contend that the current funding method is an unlawful tax and invades municipal home rule budgetary authority. A three day non-jury trial regarding this matter commenced Tuesday, August 19, 2014. The parties submitted proposed orders to Judge Brunson on September 2, 2014, and are awaiting a ruling.