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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Swiftmud dropped gun club lawsuit after lawmaker sent NRA-crafted dismissal plan, records show



From Mike Spies at The Trace:

By early this year, the Florida agency that oversees water quality in the Tampa Bay area seemed to have the upper hand in an acrimonious legal fight with the Skyway Trap & Skeet Club.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, had sued the gun range to force it to build a barrier to prevent spent ammunition from landing in Sawgrass Lake Park, a wetland next door. Then, without warning, Swiftmud abruptly dropped the lawsuit.

Swiftmud walked away from the legal battle after one of the National Rifle Association's most powerful lobbyists enlisted a prominent Florida Republican to intervene, according to emails and texts obtained through a public records request by the Trace, a nonprofit, independent website that reports on guns and gun violence.

On Feb. 18, one day before Swiftmud dropped the case, a legislative aide to Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, the head of a natural resources appropriations subcommittee that helps establish the agency's budget, sent an email to Swiftmud's head of public affairs, Colleen Thayer. Attached was a document spelling out the terms of the lawsuit's dismissal — written as if Swiftmud had already agreed to it.

"Colleen," the note stated, "Rep. Albritton wanted me to forward this to you. He said he wants thoughts sooner rather than later."

Thayer then forwarded the message to Swiftmud's executive director and chief of staff. To the former, she wrote: "I have no words … But now high blood pressure." To the latter, she said: "don't wet yourself."

The legislative aide's email doesn't reveal who crafted the lawsuit dismissal. But its metadata, essentially its digital signature, reveals the first name of the source: "Marion."

More here.

[Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 10:02am]


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