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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Is that a choo-choo or a 'pancake'?



So Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos' attention is tough to get. Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Operations Kevin Thibault said he had a solution: Write a weird headline that she can easily see and search for on her BlackBerry.

The headline: Pancake.

Thus begins the mystery of the breakfast food e-mails, rail, and FDOT.

The e-mails stood out because, initially, they weren't released in a records request Sen. Paula Dockery had sent the agency. (More here) So apparent code words could look like an effort to circumvent the public records law. Or it could be the case of the head of an agency under the gun who, besieged by e-mails, needed to read something quickly.

"It was something eye-catching," Kopelousos said. "We aren't trying to circumvent anything."

CFO Alex Sink, who would hope to run FDOT if elected governor, has called on Kopelousos to step down if she tried to hide public records. Said Dockery, another governor candidate, in a public statement:

“As a former member of the Governor’s Commission on Open Government, I learned a great deal about Florida’s public records laws. Average citizens are denied access to records they have a constitutional right to review each and every day. I have experienced firsthand the frustration of attempting to obtain records from entities that are supposed to be conducting government in the sunshine. It is evident through the words, actions, and inactions of these state officials that they are actively circumventing transparency laws.  Using code words in an effort to disguise the true content of an email is a violation of the public trust. As such, I have done a follow-up public records request to the Florida Department of Transportation for any and all emails relating to breakfast foods code words. A sound statewide rail policy is something that deserved to be openly discussed and debated-not negotiated behind closed doors. Welcome to the fight to protect taxpayers from an out of control state agency.”  
-- Marc Caputo

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:10pm]


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