I've been hearing a lot of grumbling lately about a lawyer who's filing sunshine lawsuits against smaller cities in the state. Word is that at least one city has settled with him. And some who are involved with local government are beginning to blame the sunshine law for the problems this lawyer is creating.
Give me a break! I have heard nothing yet to cause me to believe that it's the lawyer's fault that these cities are having sunshine law problems. If he's asking for records that don't exist anymore, why would the city think it had any obligation to produce those records? You can't produce records that don't exist! It's not a violation of the law to tell him that and tell him to take a hike!
And if the issue is that it's going to take time to produce these records, well then all the city has to do is to respond within three days of receipt of the request, advising that it needs more time. The law says the city has a right to charge for the search time. (They never seem to give MY clients a break on that!) The law doesn't give them a deadline on the time it takes to find these records, other than it must be "reasonable," whatever that means. What in the world are cities getting bent out of shape about?
The truth is probably one of two things: The city is mad that it's having to toe the line on doing things legally. Whether it's to produce records or take the proper steps to enact taxes for its local residents, city officials need to get proper advice from the city attorney and make sure officials are taking the proper steps in doing their civic duty. Or the city has found out that it ISN'T taking these steps (or more accurately, has failed to take these steps in the past and now is being called up for its shortfall) and that it may incur some significant expense because of its shortcomings.
And when that happens, what do they do? Blame the sunshine law. Oh, sure, easy target... How about, instead, let's put the blame where it belongs. Let's call a spade a spade. When a city gets caught with its pants down, perhaps there's a reason it gets a spanking....