Florida City Officials Spend $50,000 To Find Out Who Gave Journalists A Public Record

from the pettiest-cash-of-all dept

The city government of Tamarac, Florida has found a novel way to spend taxpayers’ money: paying someone to find out who handed public records to someone entitled to receive public records. (h/t Peter Bonilla)

The cost to Tamarac taxpayers will be as much as $50,000 for the city to hire a private investigator to figure out who gave public records to a reporter, according to records released Friday.

City leaders are scheduled to approve hiring the law firm of Kim Vaughan Lerner on Wednesday to conduct a “forensic” search to try to find who gave the South Florida Sun Sentinel a memo that is a public record in Florida.

$50,000 from taxpayers to hire someone taxpayers likely don’t believe needs to be hired to discover the source of records taxpayers are entitled to have access to. An investigation so self-serving the city can barely be bothered to defend it. But since the city holds the power and the taxpayers’ purse strings, the investigation will continue.

Why are city leaders so hot and bothered they’re willing to chase the paper trail of a presumptive public record that ended up in the hands of journalists? Well, it sure as shit isn’t because they’re concerned in any way about the public they’re supposed to be serving.

No, this expensive paper chase is the result of city leaders being embarrassed by their own misuse of public funds. The budget amendments handed to the Sun Sentinel included plenty of perks for city employees — several of which directly benefited the people approving the amendments. This $50,000 will just be more ill-spent taxpayer “revenue,” joining other public expenditures that have done nothing but reward city legislators for being bad stewards.

The city memo in dispute had outlined several budget amendments that would benefit the city commissioners themselves, including new retirement, full health benefits, and stipends for technology and education.

Those budget amendments, which have since been scrapped from being placed on a city agenda, came within months of other forms of spending that leaders passed for themselves to do their part-time job. That included a $25,000 personal initiative fund and a $15,000 local travel fund, on top of their salary, car and phone allowances, and out-of-town travel money.

The $50,000 will be spent interviewing officials and staffers to determine who “leaked” presumptively-public information to the public. This includes reviewing communications sent and received by everyone currently under this super-weird form of suspicion, which apparently includes anyone with access to the budget documents. There’s no word yet whether this internal investigation will manifest outwardly, but one suspects city officials willing to spend $50,000 investigating the source of public info won’t shy away from targeting the journalists who published the information.

No commissioner expressed any dismay with the outsized set of perks being handed to them or the willingness to waste money investigating a non-existent breach/leak. But one commissioner mistook her public platform for a mirror, issuing this… um… statement:

Commissioner Debra Placko chastised whoever gave out the information, saying at last week’s meeting, “Shame on you for being despicable.”

LOL. “Despicable” is spending $50,000 to find and punish the person who embarrassed you using nothing more than public records anyone could have obtained. Good luck with that. And good luck with your next election run, charlatans A-D (the decision to hire an investigator passed 4-1). This is not just stupid. It’s expensive. And it does nothing more than show the public who their servants are actually serving.

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Comments on “Florida City Officials Spend $50,000 To Find Out Who Gave Journalists A Public Record”

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Abusing power and taxpayer money to find the leak

When their first response is to seek to find the whistleblower, and to spend public funds in order to do just that, it tells me officials believe their job is not to honestly fulfill their duties, but to keep up appearances that they are fulfilling their duties.

It’s how we get government departments openly lying to congress about how they’re not violating human rights.

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