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It costs $22K to get public records from the county

Accountable Miami-Dade has been fighting a long battle trying to get big money out of local politics. Now, the county says it’s going to take almost $22K to make public records about campaign finance publically available.

It’s the price that Miami-Dade County quoted Accountable Miami-Dade board member Juan Cuba when he requested all correspondence about campaign finance between Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the Board of County Commissioners and the Supervisor of Elections for the first week in August.

He used a process called a FOIA request.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

But the information was hardly free.

Cuba submitted the request for the following records:

All emails, telephone logs and written communications, including emails, letters, text messages about campaign finance from Aug. 1-9 made to and from the Supervisor of Elections, the Board of County Commissioners, and Mayor Carlos Gimenez. He submitted it on Aug. 10 and requested the records by Aug. 15. He got a response with a quote for $21,600.00 on Aug. 16.

“I was shocked and outraged it would cost this much money to get records that belong to the public. It’s a very narrow search and limited to one week between … specific actors and specific topics,” Cuba said.

For perspective, here’s all the things you could do with $22K

  • Buy a Honda Civic LX
  • Pay an entry-level employee for one year
  • Order 1500 pizzas from Thea’s
  • Get 400 tickets to the Chance the Rapper concert in October

On Aug. 2, Accountable Miami-Dade, a new political group working on campaign finance reform, submitted 127,000 petitions they collected. But when it came time for commissioners to sign off on sending them to the Supervisor of Elections — in time for the Nov. ballot — only six showed up (aka not enough to reach a quorum).

Accountable Miami-Dade didn’t just let this one slide.

Since the Aug. 9 commissioner’s meeting they’ve:

  • Filed a lawsuit against the county
  • E-mailed and called county commissioners
  • Organized a Twitter town hall (which we moderated)
  • Circulated another petition for a follow-up
  • Delivered letters to county hall

And on Wednesday, they hosted a rally at the county commission offices. They also submitted the FOIA request we mentioned above.

According to Mike Hernandez, Director of Communications, the Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor, the amount Cuba was quoted was way too high and the mayor’s office will be waiving any costs associated with his records and offices under his purview.

That’s one win — but now Cuba and Accountable Miami-Dade still have to get the costs lowered on the Board of County Commissioners’ end.

Three county commissioners — Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, and Barbara Jordan — have already submitted their correspondences free of charge. Now the other ten county commissioners and the county’s attorney will also have to decide if they will, according to Griselle Marino, spokesperson for the Board of County Commissioners.

Want your commissioner to turn over the e-mails fo’ $free.99? A call, e-mail, or even a tweet might help. We gathered all their info right here for you.