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Times sues Pinellas Park over personnel records

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 6, 2002

PINELLAS PARK -- The St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Pinellas Park seeking the release of a city employee's personnel records.

The suit was filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court and seeks the release of a Pinellas Park employee's personnel file and other documents. The city has failed to turn over the file following requests by reporter Anne Lindberg and a Times attorney.

After the suit was filed, a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge ordered the city to release the records by noon on June 13. If the city does not, it must come to court the next day to explain why the city believes the records are exempt from disclosure.

In a letter sent to the Times after the lawsuit was filed, a city attorney said he was reviewing the records to determine whether they are exempt from public disclosure. He said the city was withholding nothing.

Attorney Ed Foreman, who represents the city, indicated in his letter the process would take some time because the records are "very broad" and because he has lost the vision in one eye.

Penelope T. Bryan, an attorney representing the Times, said Pinellas Park officials have failed to cite a specific provision of state law under which they believe the records are exempt.

"It's a personnel file," Bryan said in an interview. "We believe that it is clearly a public record."

Lindberg first requested the records in late May, according to the lawsuit. Lindberg also requested copies of any correspondence that the city had sent to a city employee regarding any impending or actual disciplinary action. The city did not respond to her request, nor to calls from Bryan, the suit said.

The Times lawsuit also seeks reimbursement of legal fees.

A Pinellas Park spokesman, called for comment, referred the Times to Foreman's letter.

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