IN MY OPINION

From the managing editor: Why we all should care about public records

 

We want to hear from you

Rick Hirsch, managing editor, can be reached at 305-376-3504 or rhirsch@MiamiHerald.com. The mailing address is One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

Have your say: The Herald offers many ways to give your opinion, comment on coverage, take issue with stories and share your reviews. We welcome letters (see editorial pages) and e-mails (heralded@MiamiHerald.com).

Join us online: We appreciate readers who sign up with Miami.com, where you can share reviews on hot spots like restaurants and clubs. Or join the thousands participating online by commenting on stories at MiamiHerald.com.

Share your insights: Help The Miami Herald and WLRN cover the news by joining the Public Insight Network. To participate, go to MiamiHerald.com/insight or contact our Public Insight analyst, Stefania Ferro, at publicinsight@MiamiHerald.com or 305-376-3563.


rhirsch@MiamiHerald.com

This week, Bal Harbour sent its police chief packing.

Chief Tom Hunker left his job Friday after a series of Miami Herald stories by reporter Daniel Chang that disclosed his tiny department’s questionable spending of millions seized from drug dealers and money launderers.

Two weeks ago, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office reopened an investigation into attempted absentee ballot fraud in the Aug. 14 primary election.

They acted after reporter Patricia Mazzei disclosed information prosecutors missed in their own probe of computer generated ballot requests. Mazzei dug deep into the files and uncovered new clues that prosecutors are now pursuing.

Each story has a common thread: Florida’s public records laws were central to unearthing the news.

Today is Sunshine Sunday, part of Sunshine Week, a nationwide discussion about the importance of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.

Sunshine Week was started in Florida in 2002 by the Florida Society of News Editors (FSNE), during a year in which our state Legislature had filed 150 amendments attempting to weaken our open government laws. Since then, it’s become a national event, supported by such organizations as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Though Florida voters enshrined government in the sunshine in the Constitution in 1992, there are new assaults annually on open government.

This year, there are bills that would shield state university search committees from scrutiny, block access to records of child abuse death reviews and make secret the financial statements of companies bidding for public contracts.

In investigating aspects of alleged ballot fraud last fall, public records rules enabled us to review a variety of suspicious activities that could have impacted the election. That access helped us reach out to registered voters to determine if ballots were being sent to people who actually sought one — or to others posing as voters.

And that brings us to one of the 50-plus public records exemptions being considered in Tallahassee this spring. House Bill 249 would shield the email records of registered voters and voter registration applicants from the public.

Why should you care? Because good public records laws make it more difficult for people doing wrong to hide what they’ve done. They give the public the ability to force disclosure of information.

Read more Legislature stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category