State Attorney's Office accused of breaking the law

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A judge ruled the 4th Circuit State Attorney's Office not only illegally hampered one man's attempts to gain access to public records, but used intimidating tactics to do it.

A judge found that State Attorney Angela Corey's office, whose job is to prosecute lawbreakers, violated Florida state law itself.

In court rulings, it shows the the office violated Florida open records laws after Curtis Lee, a former attorney and a frequent public records plaintiff, started requesting documents related to the police and fire pension fund.

His attorney, Brooks Rathet, said he ran into a lot of roadblocks.

"He would ask for records involving police and fire pension fund. That was an issue that was of interest to Mr. Lee. I wasn't involved in that," Rathet said. "He had no attorneys involved and he had a couple investigators with the State Attorney's Office come and visit him, which was disconcerting to him. He felt uneasy about that and he still wasn't getting the records."

The ruling says the State Attorney's Office sent two investigators to Lee's home and told him to stop contacting their office, and Rathet said that was over the line. The State Attorney's Office is legally obligated to provide public documents to anyone who requests them.

"If these are records that belong to the public, the public has a right to them, and sometimes people are motivated for all different reasons," Rathet said. "Sometimes whistleblowers or citizen watchdogs -- or they just want to find out information -- want to know things."

"The State Attorney's Office respects Judge Cole's decision, which brings to light a complicated area in the Public Records law," the State Attorney's Office told News4JAX in a statement. "According to Judge Cole's order, only one mistake was found out of the 17 accusations filed by Mr. Lee. Judge Cole's order notes the error was not done 'willfully or knowingly' in this case."

The State Attorney's Office said it is currently in the process of getting together all the documents Lee has requested and getting them to him.

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