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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Politico publishes 'trade secret' details so Seminole Tribe calls off emergency hearing

After waiting three days and drawing a lawsuit from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Politico of Florida on Friday published profit details from the transcript of Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, prompting the Tribe to declare its request for an emergency hearing "moot." 

"Because the Court can no longer afford the Tribe meaningful relief, the Tribe hereby withdraws its Emergency Motion for Protective Order, and responds in opposition to POLITICO’s Motion to Intervene,'' wrote the Michael Moody on behalf of the tribe.  Download Tribe withdraws motion.

Politico, the online news site, obtained Allen's transcript on Tuesday as part of a public records request of depositions in the pending case before the U.S. District Court's Northern Florida division, but it chose not to write about the information or to make the document public.

On Wednesday, the tribe sought an emergency hearing to force Politico to seal a copy of a deposition given by Allen until it could redact the annual gaming revenue that was released by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation as part of a public records request. The tribe argued that the information was a trade secret and the state had informally agreed to withhold the information from the public record. 

Politico's lawyers, and Florida public records advocates, argued the tribe's request -- and the state's alleged consent -- was an unconstitutional prior restraint of a public document and Politico asked to intervene in the pending case. 

The tribe sued the State of Florida last October for allegedly breaching its gambling compact and for failing to negotiate in good faith. Allen was deposed as part of the lawsuit last month and, the tribe argues, the state agreed not to release the transcripts of any depositions without prior review from the tribe.

On Friday morning, Politico published a report quoting Allen saying that the tribe “generated $2.2 billion in gaming revenues” in 2014 and noted that Allen had previously been quoted as citing that revenue number in the past. 

Those revenue figures were consistent with the numbers used by state economists when assessing the impact of proposed gaming legislation last session and were consistent with projections from a Spectrum Gaming analysis sought by the Florida Legislature in 2013. 

The tribe's argued that the court should seal the document so that it can release a redacted copy of the transcript, arguing that it is a protected trade secret. 

Barbara Petersen, attorney and president for the First Amendment Foundation, told the Herald/Times there is no exemption in this case for a trade secret.

"The Seminole Tribe has no authority to assert a trade secrets exemption,'' she said. "It's a public record in the hands of DBPR."

"It's troubling when the state is willing to negotiate into private negotiations over the public's rights of access to information,'' said Mark R. Caramanica, lawyer for Politico in an interview with the Herald/Times. 


[Last modified: Friday, May 13, 2016 4:36pm]


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