Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nonprofit Sues Tax Collector Over Public Records Request

A Florida based nonprofit is suing a Palm Beach tax collector for refusing to release public records of a $1.9 million settlement her office reached with over a dozen online travel companies.

The Palm Beach Post reported yesterday that Citizens for Sunshine, a government watchdog group based in Sarasota, Fla., had sent a member to the office of Palm Beach tax collector Anne Gannon to inspect the document, but was denied access by Gannon's staff.  These types of legal settlements are usually considered fair game under public records law, but Gannon's office says it can't release the documents until it notifies the attorneys of the travel companies.

Citizens for Sunshine disagrees, saying the public has a constitutional right to see the documents, and has asked a circuit court judge to order Gannon to release the records.  Additionally, the nonprofit wants reimbursement for their legal fees.  Gannon told The Palm Beach Post that she plans to release the documents on Tuesday.  Additionally, she said she was not aware of the group's initial request.

The documents in question reflect a settlement that ended a lawsuit that Gannon filed in 2009 that alleged that certain travel companies, including Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, were not giving the county all of the tourism taxes they collect from the hotel rooms they book.  The was for $1.9 million, nearly $1.3 million of which will be used to pay tourism-related expenses.

You can read the full story in The Palm Beach Post.

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