Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trio with Consulting Firm Found in Contempt; Employees for Data Targeting Didn't Produce Records on Redistricting

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trio with Consulting Firm Found in Contempt; Employees for Data Targeting Didn't Produce Records on Redistricting

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | Three employees with a Republican consulting firm were found in contempt of court for failing to make public records related to an ongoing redistricting lawsuit.

It's the latest in a long-running redistricting case that has seen consulting firms from both major parties defend having to subject internal documents to public review.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis of Leon County twice ordered Gainesville-based Data Targeting employees to produce emails related to their role in the once-a-decade redistricting process.aIt's part of lawsuit filed against the GOP-controlled Legislature arguing the new maps favor Republicans, which is at odds with the Fair District amendments.

Named in the contempt motion signed Friday by Lewis were company founder Pat Bainter and operatives Matt Mitchell and Michael Sheehan.

Because they are not a party to the case, they argued they should not be forced to turn over private emails. Officials from the firm have already turned over emails with lawmakers or legislative staff, which are subject to state open records laws.

On Thursday, Data Targeting did give 161 pages of documents to the plaintiffs but argued in a motion that nearly 1,900 additional pages given to Lewis should not be made public because they contain trade secrets.

"Relatively speaking, we have received a minuscule number of pages of documents," said Adam Schachter, an attorney representing the plaintiffs during a brief hearing in Lewis' chambers.

In an affidavit filed with Data Targeting's document dump, Bainter argued having to turn over the internal communications would have a "chilling effect" on his business.

"Specifically, should this material be disclosed, retaliation from government officials or private parties that disagree with the opinions and strategies discussed in the material is highly probable and expected," Bainter's affidavit read.

Next week attorneys from both sides will sit down with former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding, who is serving as a special magistrate in the case, to go over the 1,883 pages of documents Data Targeting says should be kept private. …

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