Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Secrecy over Bus Video Is Baloney

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Secrecy over Bus Video Is Baloney

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

It sometimes comes off as feisty paranoia, but there is no doubt that Jill's attitude makes her prone to speak up when she thinks she's being treated unfairly.

I'd like to see if she is right.

I'm not using her real name, because she prefers it that way, even if I don't get why. Everyone she is talking about and upset with already knows she is. That especially includes some drivers and administrators at SCAT, the Sarasota County bus system.

She has been refused bus service at times, and doesn't accept the reasons given. She says certain drivers say her wheelchair is in unsafe disrepair or is allegedly difficult to attach to safety hooks that the bus system uses.

She has been homeless for a year or so, and she often has lots of stuff with her and her chair is in rough shape. But she says it is not unsafe on a bus and that some drivers are nice. Several just don't want to bother with her, she thinks.

Whatever the case, here's the thing: There is SCAT video of her encounters with drivers, and she has been trying to get it. A few weeks ago, she asked me how to go about requesting it. I coached her on how to be specific and ask in writing and make it clear it is Sunshine Law request, and so on.

Then I forgot about it. But to my surprise, this past week she sent me an email saying her request was flatly refused. She sent a copy of the county's denial letter.

So on Friday, I made a similar request to a county spokesman, just to see if I was also denied. That request is officially pending, I guess, but the spokesman already has said he sees no reason why I would get a different answer.

I agree that Jill and I should both get the same answer. But not the answer she got.

The explanation for the denial: A state appeals court decision in January supposedly made bus system security camera videos exempt from public records law. But to me, the ruling sounds like it was from a case so different that the relevance to Jill's request seems imaginary.

I base that conclusion partly on the words of a non-involved attorney who sometimes deals with this sort of thing and usually knows his

stuff. Bob Fournier, the Sarasota city attorney, says the appeals case was about video of a multi-agency law enforcement training session that involved a bus. …

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