The last session of the Florida Legislature provided many changes in the law, including some that could significantly impact how you conduct business on Florida governmental projects. §119.0701 (1) (a) defines “contractor” as any individual, partnership, corporation or business entity that enters into a contract for services with a public agency and is acting on behalf of the public agency.
A contractor is required to keep all public records related to the project and upon request from the public agency’s custodian of public records (“CPR”) provide the requested public records (or copies) to the public agency’s CPR within a reasonable time. Not all records are public records pursuant to Ch. 119, F.S. It is the contractor’s responsibility to ensure that any exempt or confidential records are not transferred to the agency CPR.
All third party requests for public records must be made directly to the agency CPR who may then advance the request to the contractor. Should a contractor delay in providing public records, after request by the agency CPR, and the public records requested are not provided within a reasonable time, the contractor may be subject to the sanctions of §119.10, F.S., that includes fines or misdemeanor charges.
In addition, before an aggrieved party brings a Civil action to compel production of the public records, the plaintiff must then provide a formal notice (“notice”) to the Agency CPR and the contractor. If the contractor provides the public records within eight (8) business days after the notice is received, it will not be liable for the costs of enforcement. What constitutes reasonable or unreasonable delay in provision of public records is subjective, but the provision of public records during the eight day safe haven period provides clarity to the contractor. This provision is applicable for all contracts entered into or amended on or after July 1, 2016.
This is a brief summary of the bill (HB 273) but if you have any questions about this, or any other changes to Florida law, contact me at 904-861-0770.
Anthony (Tony) Zebouni, Esq.