Judge to rule whether FEMA must tell who got aid in 2004

Associated Press
Published October 4, 2005

FORT MYERS - Prompted by a newspaper lawsuit, a federal judge will decide whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency must open its books to show who got aid money after four hurricanes hit Florida last year.

The News-Press of Fort Myers, Pensacola News Journal and Florida Today , all Gannett newspapers, sued after FEMA refused to produce records naming recipients of hurricane aid and how much each was paid.

U.S. District Judge John E. Steele heard arguments Friday.

The newspapers want the names and addresses of people who shared in nearly $5.3-billion in payments to investigate whether they were fair and equitable.

FEMA argued that it is a privacy issue - that if it revealed the information, newspapers could use it along with other data to determine the type, contents and value of each home, the owner's income and insurance coverage.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is among legislators who have railed against FEMA's secrecy. He said the Fort Myers case has "profound implications."