Environmental lawyer blasts SFWMD for public records response

Lisa Interlandi, a senior attorney for the Everglades Law Center, says the South Florida Water Management District retaliated against her for submitting a public records request.

Interlandi submitted a request for the district’s email list earlier this month after the district told those on the list that, “Audubon Florida wants to raise your taxes to pay for the federal government’s failure to control invasive plants that are destroying the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.”

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Lisa Interlandi, senior attorney for Everglades Law Center, at a Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting in 2015. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The district sent that blast email after Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper urged district board members not to roll back tax rates so the district would have more money for program work.

“I wanted to know who was receiving those communications,” Interlandi said, adding that the district’s emails were, in her view, “increasingly negative and were calling out people by name.”

Interlandi offered examples of the district’s communications. In one from May, the district told email recipients that “former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah inaccurately alleged flawed scientific modeling was used in Everglades restoration planning.”

In another, also from May, the Caloosahatchee River Watch came in for criticism.

“Today, the Caloosahatchee River Watch group is holding what was advertised as a public forum to discuss the C-43 Reservoir project,” the email state. “However, this ‘forum’ will consist solely of one-sided detractors in pursuit of an agenda without facts to support it.”

Many government agencies do keep email lists to provide media members and others information about upcoming events and summaries of agency actions.

After the district said Audubon Florida wants to raise taxes, Interlandi asked for the district’s mailing list. The district complied. But it also sent out another email, this one letting recipients know their email addresses had been sought.

Under the heading “Your Privacy,” the district wrote:

“The South Florida Water Management District has received a public records request from a party associated with the email address – lisa@evergladeslaw.org – seeking more than 5,000 email addresses contained in SFWMD’s electronic mailing list. This agency is legally obligated under Chapter 119 of Florida State Statutes to fulfill this demand and provide these email addresses.

“As you may know, such email lists and addresses are commercial commodities that are often bought and sold.  The law prohibits SFWMD from asking about the intended use for the information. Any concern you may have about a potential invasion of privacy is understandable.

“SFWMD maintains email lists with the intention of keeping the public informed about the agency’s work. These email lists represents a wide range of interested parties, including individuals who requested SFWMD information, elected officials, environmental groups, businesses, scientific communities and the media.

“You may receive unwanted solicitations or correspondence as a result of this public records request.”

Interlandi said she would never sell the email list, which is a public record. She said she views the SFWMD email as retaliation for asking for the district’s email list.”They retaliated by publishing my email address,” Interlandi said. “What other purpose is served by publishing my email address? I believe it was retaliation for requesting the list.”

District Spokesman Randy Smith said those on the email list were warned of Interlandi’s request “in an abundance of caution.”

“When faced with a mass public record demand for private and other email addresses, SFWMD, in an abundance of caution, chose to notify the persons affected of this fact,” Smith wrote in an email to The Palm Beach Post. Smith said the district “has never received a mass public records demand for an email address list. The requester did not ask for communication or specific emails but rather an entire email address list, which was completely out of the ordinary.”

The district, Smith said, does not know how the list will be used and believes those on the list “have every right to know that their information has been obtained by a third party without their consent.”

As for telling email recipients who had requested the list, Smith said the district “never mentioned the requester by name. SFWMD never assumes an identity of an individual solely based off an email address.”

 

Taylor refutes claim that she traveled lavishly, missed votes

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, locked in a re-election battle against three opponents, is pushing back against claims that she has traveled lavishly on the taxpayers’ dime and missed important commission votes.

That’s the claim of a direct mail piece sent out recently to some of Taylor’s constituents by Keeping Citizens First, Inc., which is chaired by local political consultant Rick Asnani.

Asnani is working for one of Taylor’s opponents, Mack Bernard.

“When we needed Priscilla Taylor, she wasn’t around,” the mail piece tells constituents. “When Palm Beach County commissioners were voting on the critical fight to stop the spread of illegal drug distribution pill mills in our neighborhoods…Priscilla didn’t show up. When our County Commission was looking for solutions to prevent youth violence, Priscilla Taylor was sight-seeing somewhere else.”

The mailer then said Taylor missed the 2011 meeting because she was on a “6 night $2,600 taxpayer funded excursion to Portland, Oregon.”

Taylor
Taylor

Taylor is an officer in the National Association of Counties and missed the commission meeting to attend a NACo conference. Pill mills weren’t on the commission agenda, and commissioners received and filed a report on the Youth Violence Prevention Project. There was no vote.

Taylor took a dim view of the claims made in the flier.

“I think they’re all untrue,” she said. “I’ve never gone on any sight-seeing excursions when I attended any of those (NACo) meetings. I am an officer. I lead a committee. I have never gone on one of these trips for any vacations at all. Every trip I’ve taken has been strictly for business.”

The anti-Taylor flier isn’t the first one from Asnani’s group that has angered a county commissioner in the last few weeks. Keeping Citizens First attempted to link Commissioner Shelley Vana, a Democrat, to Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s controversial presidential nominee.

Vana is running for property appraiser against Dorothy Jacks, another Asnani client.

In an email to The Palm Beach Post, Asnani said Taylor has missed numerous commission meetings over the years and has made dozens of taxpayer-funded trips that cost a combined $52,000. He also slammed her for attempting to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Taylor has made numerous taxpayer funded trips during her time on the commission, including trips to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., as well as to various locations for NACo meetings. County staff and/or other commissioners have frequently made the same trips.

Taylor had sought to succeed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is vacating the seat to run for one in the U.S. Senate.

“It doesn’t seem like she wants to be here,” Asnani wrote. “You can’t govern if you don’t show up and Taylor is spending far too much time in conferences and too little time on constituents.”

Taylor aborted her run for Congress in February and decided to run for re-election to the commission. She has said she was seeking to serve the same constituents in a different capacity.

Taylor defended her attendance at the NACo conferences, arguing that they have provided her and other county officials with ideas that help them better serve residents.

“The information you get is really priceless,” she said. “The value is something we can not replace. To me, it’s worth it.”

More than 2,000 voted early Wednesday in Palm Beach County

Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Perhaps heeding authorities’ pleas to get it in ahead of this weekend’s possible tropical weather, more than 2,000 people, the largest total so far, took part Wednesday in early voting in advance of Tuesday’s election, according to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

The total of 2,048 brought the grand total as of Wednesday evening to 16,830. Early voting runs through Sunday.

At the state level, the Florida Division of Elections’ Thursday morning totals show 303,767 people voted early, and 1,308,507 have requested mail-in ballots, with 1,027,347 already having turned them in. Of the ballots requested, the breakdown was 525,070 Republican, 499,763 Democrat, 33,973 “other,” and 249,701 “no party.”

The National Hurricane Center has said the system in the eastern Caribbean has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm by Monday.

On Thursday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the Florida Division of Elections, said that “although it is too premature to determine if voters will be impacted by adverse weather conditions, I am in constant contact with Governor Scott, the Division of Emergency Management, and Supervisors of Elections. Any updates that have the potential to impact Florida voters will be immediately communicated.”

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher has said her office has a contingency plan and if any polling places are unusable, the law allows for last-minute switches to backup sites.

Live noon Q&A with Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher:

Related

Wednesday was the last day to request a mail-in ballot be mailed to you, although voters can pick up ballots in person up to Election Day. For your vote to count, your signed ballot must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday at the main office, or by 5 p.m. Tuesday at branch offices.

To see a sample ballot for the Aug. 30 vote, or for more information, contact the elections office at 561-656-6200 or visit www.pbcelections.org.

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE

Read all The Post’s Aug. 30 election coverage atmyPalmBeachPost.com/2016primary

Read The Post’s Know Your Candidates guide,myPalmBeachPost.com/kycp2016Eearly082516

 

Trimming your tree in advance of storm? Don’t do it.

101712 palms 01Planning to trim your trees in advance of this weekend’s possible storm? It’s too late.

The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County is urging people not to trim trees or do major yard or construction projects until the threat passes. The reason: the authority might not be able to get to all those piles of yard trash, and if the storm comes, they’ll be piles of potential missiles.

For more, call the authority at 561-697-2700 or visit its special hurricane page.

 

Palm Beach County Attorney Nieman: no opinion until next month on gay-related “therapy”

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Nieman (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

It now will be mid-September at the earliest before the county’s top lawyer issues an opinion on whether a proposed ban on the controversial gay-related “conversion therapy” would survive what’s already been promised to be a legal challenge.

County Attorney Denise Nieman told commissioners Wednesday in an email she’d hoped to have something by the end of August, but that “every time I think we’re ready to issue an opinion on the legality of adopting an ordinance banning conversion therapy, something else is brought to our attention that results in further review and research, which typically raises even more issues for our consideration.”

On June 20, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, which fights discrimination, especially against lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgenders, asked commissioners in Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach to ban “conversion therapy.” Later, the Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, said any such ban would be unconstitutional and the group could sue to block it.

Advocates of “conversion therapy,” some of whom say the term is misleading and unfair, argue it’s a legitimate way to help people, usually teenagers, rid themselves of “unwanted same-sex attractions.” Rights groups say it’s forced brainwashing that doesn’t work and harms people who didn’t seek conversion.

Palm Beach County Elections chief: Avoid storm; vote early or mail in

Elections officials and politicians Wednesday urged people to get in early voting or submit mail-in ballots because of the threat of a tropical storm or hurricane affecting South Florida this weekend or early next week, including perhaps Election Day.

“Our voting equipment has been deployed to the 461 polling locations. If a storm hits, there may be some polling places that will be impacted but certainly a minimum number,”Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Wednesday morning.  

“We will be urging our voters to take advantage of Early Voting,” Bucher said in an email. “We are also encouraging voters with vote-by-mail ballots to mail them back to us as quickly as possible.”

Palm Beach County voters are approaching the 15,000 mark after five days of the 14-day early voting event for the Aug. 30 election,  according to the Supervisor of Elections.

Patrick Murphy arrives to vote early in Florida’s primary election at the Palm Beach County Gardens Branch Library Wednesday morning, August 24, 2016.(Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Patrick Murphy arrives to vote early in Florida’s primary election at the Palm Beach County Gardens Branch Library Wednesday morning, August 24, 2016.(Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

 As of Tuesday night, 14,782 people had voted early at the 15 locations. Tuesday was the biggest single day so far, with 1,970 voting.

Today also is the last day to request a mail-in ballot be mailed to you, although voters can pick up ballots in person up to election day.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE

Read all The Post’s Aug. 30 election coverage at myPalmBeachPost.com/2016primary

Get the Aug. 30 candidates’ background and views in their own words in the Know Your Candidates guide, myPalmBeachPost.com/kycp2016.Early0824

Palm Beach County had 2nd largest turnout of early voting Monday

Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
 (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Monday marked the second biggest day for early voting in in Palm Beach County’s early voting for the Aug. 30 election,  according to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

A total of 1,703 voted Monday countywide, second only to the first of the 14 days of early voting, also on a Monday: Aug. 15. Sunday was the slowest day, with only 1,116 voting. Voting runs through Aug. 28.

The total as of Monday night now stands at 12,812. A total of 54,092 took part in early voting in nine days in March. That election included the presidential primary.

According to data compiled by the Florida Division of Elections this morning, but which shows Palm Beach County figures dating back several days:

  • Mail-in ballots were requested by 1,389,434 voters: 567,438 Republicans, 530,217 Democrats, 35,128 “other” and 256,651 “no party affiliation.”
  • Of those, 930,870 mail-in ballots have been returned: 454,184 Republican, 354,758 Democrat, 18,535 “other” and 103,393 “no party.”
  • A total of 208,606 have voted early; 98,139 Republican, 95,106 Democrat, 2,232 “other” and 13,129 “no party.”

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Weekend saw steady, but not higher, early voting in Palm Beach County

Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Early voting numbers traditionally spike on weekends, but not this year in Palm Beach County’s early voting for the Aug. 30 election.

Numbers for Saturday and Sunday actually were lower than they’d been in the first five days of this year’s 13-day event, according to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

They did bring the total through Sunday night to 11,109, according to the election’s office web site. It said 1,373 voted Saturday and 1,116 Sunday, compared to an average daily total of 1,724 for the previous five days, Aug. 15-19.

The average for the first seven days is 1,587. Extrapolating that out to the full 13 days would suggest a total of 20,631. That’s a little more than a third of the 54,092 who took part in early voting in nine in March. That election included the presidential primary.

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To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

  • Get the candidates’ background and views in their own words in The Post’s exclusive Know Your Candidates online guide, pbpo.st/kycp2016.
  • EXCLUSIVE ELECTION COVERAGE
  • KNOW YOUR CANDIDATES GUIDE
  • One in a series about all races and referendums on Palm Beach County’s Aug. 30 ballots. Series will run daily through Sunday, the day before the start of early voting in the county.
  • Get all The Post’s Aug. 30 election coverage at myPalmBeachPost.com/2016primary

Palm Beach County Property Appraiser issues “rollback” info. What’s your rate?

moneyPAO_LogoJPGOn Monday, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser issued, and mailed to 654,930 property owners, its annual “TRIM” notice (“Truth in Millage.”).

The state many years ago required entities to show the rollback rate, the rate at which the average homeowner would pay the same amount as last year if the entity’s budget was exactly the same as last year.

In the box score issued Monday, the appraiser broke out for each entity two numbers. The one in blue is “equal to the rollback,” meaning no tax increase on the average property covered by that entity. The number in green, “below rollback,” means that, if the proposed rate passes, you’ll actually pay less in taxes, even though your property’s value might have stayed the same or gone up.

Call the property appraiser at 561-355-3230 or visit http://www.pbcgov.com/papa

“Nature Awaits’ starts back up next month

022814 ERM nature photo class 5The third season of Palm Beach County’s “Adventure Awaits” series starts up next month. It features, through November, 15 events and a family-friendly festival.

Naturalists from Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management will lead cycling and paddling tours, “a swamp tromp,” nature photography classes, butterfly encounters, and more, including the popular stargazing event.

Events are free but space is limited and advance registration is required. Adventures vary in challenge from “beginner” to “advanced.”

To see the schedule, visit www.facebook.com/PBCERM/events. To reserve your spot, visit www.pbcerm.eventbrite.com.

For more, call (561) 233-2400 or visit www.pbcgov.com/erm/