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What is Open Government?

Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the “Public Records Law.” This law provides that any records made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for inspection, unless specifically exempted by the Florida Legislature. Over the years, the definition of what constitutes “public records” has come to include not just traditional written documents such as papers, maps and books, but also tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings, and records stored in computers.

Florida expanded this access in 1967 with passage of the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. This law establishes a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions, and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.

What is a public record?

The Florida Supreme Court has determined that public records are all materials made or received by an agency in connection with official business which are used to perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge. Written documents, tapes, photographs, films, and sound recordings are all considered public records subject to inspection unless a statutory exemption exists. For more information, see Chapter 119.07, Florida Statutes.

Will I have to pay for public records?

Many records are provided at no cost to the requestor. Charges may be assessed for use of labor, systems, material, supplies, and other resources used to provide access to, and copies of, public records. District policy is to charge when staff are required to spend more than 30 minutes (continuous or cumulative) on activities related to fulfilling a records request; when administrative supplies (paper, toner, CDs, DVDs, postage, etc.) are used, or, any other quantifiable taxpayer funded resources are expended for the sole purpose of fulfilling the request.

When charges are likely the person requesting records will be advised and, when possible, given an estimate of costs. In some cases a deposit may be required before research into the request begins. Records will not be released until any charges are paid in full.

How can I request public records at the lowest possible cost?

There is no charge for providing records when a request takes less than 30 minutes of staff time to complete and no significant resources are expended.

You may keep costs down when making a request by being specific about exactly what records you are looking for, the timeframe you are looking forl and any qualifying details. This will be very helpful in ensuring that the search we conduct, and the records you receive, best meet your needs at the lowest cost to both you and the taxpayers of the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

We often work with requestors to help narrow searches that seem overly broad in scope. Feel free to contact us if we can assist you with refining your request.

How long does it take to fulfill a public records request?

Florida law states that an entity must respond within a “limited reasonable time.” This is the time it takes to review the request, search, retrieve, and process records for release. Some requests may only take a few minutes while others may take weeks. The length of time it takes largely depends on activity, volume, and scope. We are committed to providing requested records as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In what format will public records be provided?

The Government-in-the-Sunshine Law provides the right to access, inspect, and copy existing public records in the format that they are used by the agency where they are stored. Agencies are not required to re-format data, create new records, or write new reports to accommodate a request for information.

What information is provided online?

Records and information may be readily available at no cost on the District’s website.

How can I submit a public records request?

Submitting a public records request is easy. You may do so by mail, email, fax, telephone, or in person. You may also wish to use the District’s convenient Online Public Records Request Form.

Email:   Ombudsman@nwfwater.com
Phone:  (850) 539-5999
Fax:      (850) 539-2777

How may I arrange to review public records at a District office?

If you would like to review a public record in person, please note that in your request. A custodian will schedule a time and place during normal business hours for you to review the records. Note that there may be proctoring charges associated with reviewing original records.