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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Florida Exemption Runneth Amuck

County Commission candidate John Nicolette owns 14 properties in Pasco worth more than $4-million.

But punch his name into the county's online property records databases, and nothing comes up.

Using a public records exemption that shields the home address of public safety officials — including Nicolette, a Tampa firefighter — Property Appraiser Mike Wells and Tax Collector Mike Olson have blocked the public's access to information about all of Nicolette's investment properties.

Rather than simply redact the home address from those forms, the records don't exist online.

Those records include information on the location and value of the investment properties, as well as the taxes paid on every piece of land Nicolette owns.

A Times reporter obtained information only after visiting the offices in person and getting a Times attorney involved.

But it's a tenet of open government — and particularly, state law — that property records in Florida are public. Neighbors can see what neighbors are paying in property taxes — and what tax breaks they receive.

More here.

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