Public Records - A Tale of Two Requests

August 21, 2006 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Requesting public records from Mayor Peyton's staff can often be a daunting task. Even though state law guarantees these records to you, (after all, they are YOURS) you quickly begin to see the unrolling of the red tape as you are passed from person to person. Delay upon delay piles up until you are often discouraged and frustrated to the point of not caring anymore (this CERTAINLY would not be the intention of the administration though)! But it doesn't have to be that way...not if your name is Mary Kelli. Follow us as we examine A Tale of Two Reqests .

The hurdles before Mr. Hurley

 Ken Hurley is the local Jacksonville ACLU President.  He has been trying for over a week to get answers to why the Mayor's office used "taxpayer funds used to promote A Day of Faith" at the Veterans Coliseum.  Initially he was passed to an internal staffer (Cindy Laquidara) who promptly told him that Florida state law did not require her to respond.  Hurley then responded back, re-wording his previous email in the form of an official record request.  This was last Friday, August 18, 2006.  As of this evening, August 21st, there appears to be no public records indicating Mr. Hurley's request has been filled yet.
 And the fast-track for Mary Kelli Palka
 In contrast to Mr. Hurley, Mary Kelli Palka of the Florida Times-Union glides smoothly over the hurdles of beaurocracy in obtaining public records.  This unfettered access to public records for Ms. Palka is nothing new to journalistic insiders though.  Reporters at the Jacksonville Daily Record, Folio Weekly and even peer reporters at the Times-Union have complained since John Peyton took office of an unfair bias in granting Ms. Palka access.  Apparently she has some kind of "Mayor's office key" that allows her back-office access, that is not granted to other journalists.  This is a holdover from the previous mayor's administration.  It is our understanding that at the changing of the mayoral guard, keys were taken from all journalists except Ms. Palka. 
 Follow with us the timeline of one of Ms. Palka's recent public record requests:
 August 14, 2006 3:46 PM
 Palka emails Susie Wiles and requests "a copy of the city's wood and yard waste mulching operation contract".
 August 14, 2006 3:53 PM
 Wiles forwards Palka's request to Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, Interim Environmental Director. 
 August 14, 2006 4:09 PM
 Gujjarlapudi responds to Wiles telling her Cindy Laquidara (remember her from above?) will get it for her.  Laquidara's boss, Alan Mosley, is CC'd on the email.
 August 14, 2006 4:13 PM
 Laquidara responods to Gujjarlapudi, Wiles and Mosley, saying, "Let me get Belinda and our new paralegal to provide me with the copies of everything we have produced.  Susie – do you want me to bring them over?"
 How's that for public service? Four related emails, involving four high-level staffers - in less than thirty minutes!  

It's too bad ordinary citizens aren't granted the same level of service as one favored journalist.