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Port Richey's police chief needs a crash course on public records

The city of Port Richey needs a more transparent cover on its financial ledgers. Specifically, Police Chief David Brown must quit trying to hide financial data regarding the red light cameras on U.S. 19 from City Council members.

At the Aug. 30 Council meeting, Brown told Council members he couldn't answer the question of how much the city will pay monthly to the private company providing red light cameras. The information is confidential, Brown told the Council, citing the city's contract with American Traffic Solutions.

He is wrong. Either Brown hadn't read the contract which he contended contained provisions for confidentiality, or worse, he tried to deny access to public records. That would make his roadblock to Council inquiries an intentional attempt to sidestep Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine law.

Council members and the city manager should not tolerate such ignorance or insubordination. They need to remind Brown that, as a police officer, he has sworn to uphold all the laws of Florida, even public records laws.

Brown's attempt to stifle Council questions also contradicts his own previous statements about the motives for the cameras. "Port Richey was the third Florida city to install red light cameras in May 2008. It was not a financial decision then and it is not a financial decision now,'' Brown wrote in an October 2009 letter to this newspaper.

Eleven months later, it's not only obviously about the money, but so much so that Brown wanted to keep the numbers a secret from the city's elected leaders.

One problem: The information is public record, as Times staff writer Drew Harvell reported after reviewing city budget documents. The city estimates it will pay $4,750 per camera per month to the private company. Over a 12-month period, projections show the city netting $492,000 from the red-light cameras, with the state taking $796,800 and vendor ATS collecting $228,000. The company confirmed the costs and acknowledged the information is public record.

Now, the chief of police should do likewise and apologize to Council members and the city residents they represent.

Port Richey's police chief needs a crash course on public records 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 8:20pm]
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