A Jacksonville city hall receptionist was so sure of herself that she not only felt the need to “invite security” after PINAC crew member Jeff Gray made a verbal public records request for a document on her desk, she accused him of yanking the document off her desk, stating that he “flipped through the entire document” without her permission.
And when Gray insisted he did not yank the document off her desk, she smugly told him that surveillance cameras would back up her assertions.
So Gray made a public records request for the surveillance video and proved her to be a liar.
Hopefully next time, Sheri Webber will think twice about making false accusations.
The document, Gray later learned, was exempt under Florida’s public records law because it contained the names and personal information of police officers.
But if it was so secretive, then it probably shouldn’t have been laying on the receptionist’s desk in full view of anybody walking up to it.
The incident began when Gray was accompanying PINAC’s public records guru, Thomas Covenant, who was making a request for the mayor’s appointment schedule.
As Covenant was making his request, Gray asked the receptionist to inspect a document on her desk which attracted his interest.
Webber informed him that he would have to make a “formal request” in writing, which runs contrary to Florida public records law that states one only needs to make a verbal request.
But when Gray pointed this out to her, she told him “that is not an accepted procedure.”
When he pressed her for the statute that backs up her assertion, she said, “I think at this point, I need to invite security up” as if they were all sitting around having a tea party.
The security guard had enough sense not to get involved, choosing to stand by for Alexis Lambert from Jacksonville’s Office of Public Accountability to sort out the situation.
But Lambert still took Webber’s word that Gray “yanked” the document off her desk.
“You don’t have the right under the public records law to walk up to people’s desk and yank things off of them,” Lambert said.
However, Lambert also fulfilled Gray’s request for the video that showed he never yanked the document off Webber’s desk.
The lesson here is record every interaction with every public official because their word will always carry more weight than your word.
Unless you can prove them wrong with video evidence.