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Pinellas County Housing Authority wants investigation of city agency

The Pinellas County Housing Authority has asked Florida's attorney general and local prosecutors to investigate its St. Petersburg counterpart on claims that it is violating open records laws.

The reason: The St. Petersburg housing agency intends to bill the county authority up to $19,720 for records and make it wait seven months to get them.

County authority chairman Joe Triolo said Tuesday that his agency is being sand-bagged by the city authority.

"I don't see this as a fight. I see this as doing the right thing," Triolo said.

The county agency's request involves more than 17,000 e-mails and records produced since October 2007, according to the city authority. The records would be reviewed by a supervisor at $29 an hour who would be working 20 hours a week until June.

"We have no intention of not fulfilling this request. There's just a lot of documents," said city spokeswoman Audra Butler.

The county requested the records in September, the latest jab in a yearlong feud with the St. Petersburg agency and its executive director, Darrell Irions.

The two authorities used to operate together, but Irions left as county chief in April while facing allegations of misconduct from former board member Tom Minkoff.

The fight involved a planned joint headquarters that was scuttled in the breakup. The same law firm, Squire Sanders & Dempsey, represented both agencies. The county wants e-mail involving the firm, too.

The county board has begun pursuing a $26,723 refund from the firm, Triolo said. The records could help the case, he said.

The city authority's response amounts to a "gross violation of both their constitutional statutory duties," Justin Zinzow, an attorney for the county authority, wrote in complaint Friday to the state and prosecutors.

Miami attorney Rick Ovelmen, an expert on records law, said that generally, agencies can charge the actual cost to pull and review records.

The State Attorney's Office in Pinellas received the complaint Tuesday afternoon.

Attorney General Bill McCollum's office hadn't seen it yet. Spokeswoman Ryan Wiggins said the office normally tries to mediate records disputes.

Pinellas County Housing Authority wants investigation of city agency 11/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 11:29pm]
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