Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

In reversal, PSTA to withhold names of people requesting records

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CLEARWATER — In an abrupt about-face, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will no longer post on its website the names of people who request public records from the agency.

CEO Brad Miller said he made the decision Wednesday after reading an editorial in the Tampa Bay Times criticizing the practice as an attempt to intimidate critics who frequently make requests.

"That's the exact opposite of what we're working so hard to do," Miller said. "I don't want to impede anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable."

The public records log launched last week. In addition to the name of the records seeker, the Web page lists the date of the request, the records sought and the status of the request. The log includes about 370 requests dating to January. The goal, Miller said, was to make the request process more transparent and help streamline the process for people seeking the same or similar information.

The page was modeled after a feature on the website of TriMet, the transit authority in Portland, Ore., which also includes the names of the records seekers. Florida law does not require records seekers to provide their name, but PSTA's internal database includes the names as the points of contact, Miller said.

In announcing the new feature, Miller also said the log would give the public a sense of how many requests it receives, and a spokesman noted that about 90 percent of the roughly 350 requests since January were made by five people. Among them: Seminole businessman Tom Rask and St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip, two of the most vocal critics of PSTA and the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. Rask said last week that he suspected the move was meant to suppress records requests.

The names that had been posted were removed Wednesday.

Miller said the agency still plans to post the requested materials along with each log entry when possible.

"There's nothing more I want than for people to learn more about PSTA and Greenlight Pinellas," he said.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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