At the Orange Park campus on St. Johns River State College, a public university in Florida, PINAC investigative reporter Jeff Gray conducted a public records request – and was succinctly denied by the state college administrators.
“I explained to her I was doing a public records request, I just want to inspect and photograph the material safety data sheets that you guys have on campus,” Gray told St. Johns River State College assistant director Mike Keller.
“Okay, do you have any identification?” asked Keller.
Under the Florida public records law, a person is not required to provide identification in order to obtain public records. It is law, however, that the public records must be provided.
It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.” FS 119.01(1)
Keller directed Gray to Mike Canaday, the college Facilities Director, who claimed the Gray needed to make a “formal request” and come back another time.
Another staff member claimed that a manual used by the college employees was “private,” fundamentally misunderstanding her position at a public institution.
The campus police officer who arrived also was ignorant of the law, claiming Gray could not photograph any public documents. When Gray left the building, the officer followed him outside and tried to get Gray to give up his identification.
Apparently, asking for public records is a suspicious activity.