SFWMD versus the World

Florida Law allows agencies to have private executive sessions to discuss lawsuits. They are required to keep a transcript of the session. When the case is finally resolved, they are required to make the transcript public.

In August of 2017 the SFWMD, in spite of the fact that they had a summary judgement in their favor, settled with Lake Point. The agreement gave Lake Point a no bid contract on rip rap, allowed them to sell water. and relieved them of their commitment to build and donate a stormwater treatment area.

When the case was resolved, the Everglades Law Center asked for a copy of the transcript. SFWMD sued them and got the case transferred from Palm Beach County to the Lake Point friendly judge in Martin County. Judge Roby ruled that because mediation was involved the public records law did not apply and the transcript must remain forever private.

This ruling would allow any governmental body to give away public rights and protections any time a developer sued them. They could claim mediation privilege and keep secret their reasons for settling the case.

The SFWMD public records case got stranger and stranger.

Lake Point's lawyer threatened Nat Reed over his communications with the Everglades Law Center.

Members of the public who asked for the records were threatened with legal action.

The attorney who recommended the settlement quit the Water Management District and went to work for Lake Point's lobbyist.

The District claimed there was a conspiracy to get people to ask them for public records.

To date they have spent well over $500,000 on outside attorneys to fight their constituents.

The Everglades Law center appealed to the 4th DCA. Hurchalla and Melzer also appealed. The court consolidated the appeals.

Oral arguments will be heard on March 12, 2019 in West Palm Beach:

Palm Beach Lakes Community High School,

3505 Shiloh Dr, West Palm Beach, FL 33407

Arguments begin at 10:00 a.m.


Below are the briefs in the appeal:

Initial Brief on behalf of Everglades Law Center, Donna Melzer, and Maggy Hurchalla, 9/21/18

Answer Brief on behalf of SFWMD, 11/5/18

First Amendment Foundation Amicus Brief in support of Everglades Law Center, 10/15/18

Florida Defense Lawyers Association Amicus Brief in support of SFWMD, 11/14/18

Amended Reply Brief in support of Everglades Law Center, Melzer, and Hurchalla, 12/28/18