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Longboat Key Thursday, Jun. 4, 2020 3 months ago

Longboat Key launches new system for public-records requests

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The town's "JustFOIA" system allows for anonymous requests, which is required by Florida law.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town of Longboat Key has launched a new online public records request program.

“JustFOIA” allows people to anonymously submit their requests. Users can also create an account to track the status of their requests.

Town Clerk’s Office administrative assistant Michelle Lowe said Longboat Key launched the system to help disseminate and expedite records requests.

“We get quite a few, so this way, it’s all trackable in one area, and then we can route it to different departments,” Lowe said.

The new system also provides the town clerk’s staff the ability to enter verbal or written requests. Lowe said the new system gives “more access to the public,” especially since town offices have been closed to visitors since mid-March because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before we would either take it by phone call or just by an email,” Lowe said. “This just kind of allows to see how kind of who…it’s almost kind of like a chain of history, so who inputted it, what documents they’ve attached and everything like that. We can see how far along the request is. Before it’d be kind of like sending an email, waiting for a response [and] following back up if they don’t respond to your email. This is more streamlined.”

The new system comes after U.S. District Judge William Jung’s June 2019 decision to dismiss a federal lawsuit against the town. A blind Daytona Beach man named Joel Price sued Longboat Key and dozens of other Florida towns, cities and counties. The lawsuit against Longboat Key claimed the town must “update all electronic documents made available to the public to remove barriers in order that individuals with visual disabilities can access the electronic documents to the full extent” of federal law.

Since the suit was dropped, Longboat Key has not published full agenda packets online to its public meetings. Anyone wanting a copy of an agenda packet must submit a request with the town. It’s prompted some Longboat Key residents to email town staff.

Town offices, including Town Hall, remain closed to the public until further notice under Town Manager Tom Harmer’s latest executive order, which is expected to re-evaluated no later than June 15. Town staff is available by calling (941)316-1999, by email or by appointment.

Lowe described the process for anyone wanting to obtain a public record.

“As soon as they submit a request, we’re able to give it to them through this website,” Lowe said. “Also, if they have any needs, like…[if] it needs to be ADA, they can let us know, and then we’ll work on it and forward it to them.”

To make a public-records request, go to the town’s website:

  1. Visit www.longboatkey.org
  2. Select the “I Want To” link
  3. Select “Request Public Records

People can also call (941)316-1999 or [email protected]. The town operates from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

See All Articles by Mark

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