Know Your Rights to Public Records: ‘Sunshine Week’ Begins March 13

Lee Herald Favicon 16Sunshine Law, Florida’s immensely broad public records law, will soon be celebrated once more. Annually, from March 13 to 19, communities from all over the state take initiatives to spread awareness of the right to information with Sunshine Week.

Lee County is no exception. This year, the Lee County Clerk of Court, Linda Doggett, is reminding residents of their rights. At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30, she will be offering a free, public seminar on the law entitled “The Value of Searching Public Records and Online Services.” The seminar will be held at the North Fort Myers Library: 2001 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers.

Sunshine law, chapter 119 of the Florida Statues, began in 1909. It allows any person in Florida to access public records from public agencies unless the records are exempt by the Florida legislature. The Government side of the law, chapter 286, was enacted in 1967, granting the right to basic access to most state and local government meetings.

These records have been revised over the years to include written material, papers, books, videos, maps, audio recordings and more. This law also includes emails. For example, Florida Gulf Coast University is a public state institution. A great majority of its records, that are not protected by FERPA or other laws, are considered public and include correspondence by email from faculty and staff.

Each year, in efforts to help spread awareness and comprehension of the law, the Attorney General’s Office issues a new guide to Sunshine Law. The Government-in-the-Sunshine manual is published by the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee; more information on this publication and more can be found on their website.

For more information on Lee County public records and more, visit the county Clerk of Court’s website. For events and seminars, head over to the community calendar.

Photo courtesy: Files By: Ted Major / (CC by SA 2.0)

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