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Lober Seeks To Penalize People Being Involved.

Commissioner Bryan Lober is seeking to make access to public records more expensive, a move that will surely lessen public involvement in the political process.

More residents are requesting public records from Brevard County government. Our commission’s reaction to that? Make it more expensive, in some cases, to obtain that information.

One could interpret an estimated 62% increase in public records requests between 2016 and 2019 as a sign of a community that’s doing its civic duty. A majority of our commissioners, however, sees that as a burden on taxpayers.

On Jan. 7, they approved with a 3-2 vote a proposal to change how the county processes such requests. Commissioners John Tobia and Kristine Isnardi cast the dissenting votes.

The most significant changes are:

  1. The county will begin charging for a request after the first 15 minutes it takes to answer it. Under the old rules, that period was 30 minutes.
  2. In the event that a request requires more than 15 minutes, the full estimated cost of the request must be paid in advance. The old policy required only 50% up front.
  3. The hourly rate charged to answer the request will be the county employee’s hourly rate plus benefits. The old fee was an averaged professional rate of $16.25 per hour plus an administrative fee of $9.44 per hour. Existing policy already requires that a request be handled by the lowest-paid employee capable of doing so.
  4. If a county commissioner answers a request, his or her hourly rate will be calculated based on a 20-hour workweek instead of the regular 40 hours. That’s because commissioners are considered to serve on a part-time basis.
  5. Commissioners currently make $58,145 a year. Based on a 20-hour workweek (and a 52-week year), their hourly rate will be $55.90 plus benefits versus $27.95 based on a 40-hour week.

Lober’s position is that the county is losing money on public records requests which justifies the increase in costs.

There are two problems with that.

First, when asked how much money is being lost, or the increase in costs, Lober had no answer saying that the man-hours required to calculate the supposed increase would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. In other words, Lober’s position is unsubstantiated by any actual facts.

Secondly, there is a reason the records are called “public records.” They belong to the public.

Lober’s position is that the records belong to the County and to the government.

It is the taxpayers that pay for the employees at the government. It is the taxpayers that pay for the computers, the desks, the office supplies, etc.

We are already paying for the records and now an elected official wants to charge the public more for their own property.

Commissioners Smith and Pritchett followed Tobia down this rabbit hole in smacking taxpayers and voted for the changes as well.

The dichotomy here is amazing. The Commissioners have sat upon the dais complaining about a lack of citizen involvement and then when citizens do get involved, they want citizens to pay for that involvement.

They want citizens to not have the data for informed opinions.

They want citizens to just accept what is said from the dais as fact even though there is a history of lies coming out of their mouths.

This move by Lober, Pritchett and Smith is nothing more than an attempt to tell citizens to sit down and shut up, while at the same time saying “you can’t get the very public records which show how corrupt we may be without paying more and more and more and more.”

What is interesting is that Lober has championed and managed to get passed a registry for animal abusers in the County. There is no penalty for being on the list, and there is no way to verify the information on the list. In short, the list is a “feel good” measure without any practical benefit to the public.

So while Lober complains about the cost of the public getting access to their records, he adds costs to the County budget on a meaningless, worthwhile registry maintained by county employees being paid by taxpayers using computers and equipment being paid for by taxpayers.

There is not a single person sitting on the County Commission that did not run on the campaign promise of “government transparency.

Not a one.

Each promised to make government more accessible to the average citizen in order to promote more involvement.

That promise was a lie.

A flat out, bald faced lie made by liars.

These Commissioners don’t want transparency.

They want the public to bow down and kiss their rings.


EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally said that Kristine Isnardi had voted for the passage of this odious proposal. A sharp reader noticed our error and we have corrected it.

Lober, Smith and Pritchett voted for this. Isnardi and Tobia voted against it.

We apologize for the error.



4 Responses to “Lober Seeks To Penalize People Being Involved.”

  1. Percy says:

    Couldn’t all public records be filed in a searchable database and a web based interface built to allow residents to search all the records whenever they want. I would think there are existing commercial products that are available that could do this. Not sure of the cost of these products would be, but I imagine the main cost would be data storage. Maybe the cost could be lowered if only the last 5-10 years data was kept online and anything older would be archived and require a paper request. Maybe the county IT folks could present a trade off study to the commissioners looking at this idea vs. existing methods to see if there is a break even point. Might actually be cheaper in the long run to put all the data on the line.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Percy,

      Thanks for the comment.

      The problem that we see with the searchable database is that there are exemptions to both certain records in the whole, and certain parts of records that are not available to the general public.

      For example, addresses of law enforcement officers are on record, but the public is not allowed to see them for obvious reasons. So while you may be able to request a copy of an officers personnel file, there are parts that are going to have to be redacted. It would almost mean that the government body would have to maintain two sets of data – one that is for legal internal use and one with redactions. We can see that getting very messy. Not only that, but because each of the thousands of emails would have to be reviewed, that would get to be costly as well.

      The bottom line to us is that three supposed Republicans – Smith, Isnardi and Lober – who ran on platforms of limited government, lowering of taxes and fees, and government transparency voted for this without any supporting data showing it was necessary.

      It was a “wish” to close off government records from the public by making access to those records more expensive.

      We used to think that the government was to be trusted. The people on the County Commission show that is not the case.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Carla says:

    I agree that the Commission’s passing of Lober’s agenda item means it will cost taxpayers more to get public records. That will naturally have the effect of tamping down requests. This is not good. People need transparency. How else can they find out what their Commissioners are up to?

    With Lober’s logic, I’m surprised he doesn’t charge the public an hourly rate when they get their chance for public comments at the Commission meetings. After all, they are taking up precious time of those well-paid part-time Commissioners and staff.

    I seem to recall at least one of these Commissioners promising to work full-time hours as a Commissioner if they got this part-time job. That indicates a willingness to work for free those other 20 hours per week. But now Lober thinks that it’s costing the taxpayers money if a Commissioner has to be involved in filling a public records request?

    What I don’t understand is why you are not attributing the passage of this to only the three who voted for it: Lober, Smith, and Pritchett. According to Florida Today and the County’s online video of the meeting, Tobia and Isnardi voted against Lober’s agenda item. Yet you said, “This move by Lober, Isnardi and Smith is nothing more than an attempt to tell citizens to sit down and shut up…” That makes it sound like Isnardi was on the same side as Lober and Smith. You also said, “Commissioners Smith and Isnardi followed Tobia down this rabbit hole in smacking taxpayers and voted for the changes as well.” I don’t get it.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Carla,

      Thanks for the comment and the catch of our error.

      We have corrected it in the post and listed the correction as well.

      We apologize, but we were and are angry about this and our fingers were typing faster than our brains.

      Once again, thanks for pointing out our mistake.

      A. Afterwit.

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