A Southwest Ranches resident has sued the upscale town and its mayor for $1.25, claiming they violated public records law -- and then didn't give him change.
Homeowner Bill Di Scipio's suit says he went to the Southwest Ranches town hall in early October to view and photograph with his iPhone 40 pages of public records concerning a proposed federal immigration detention center, a project city officials quietly planned for nearly a decade before most residents found out this year. According to Di Scipio, town clerk Erika Santamaria told him he couldn't take pictures of the records, but was required to purchase copies at 15 cents per page.
"As a result," the complaint reads, "Di Scipio was charged $1.20 for copies of eight of the approximately 40 pages of documents which he desired but could not afford...when Di Scipio tendered $1.25 for the copies, he was not provided change."
Di Scipio's attorney John W. McKnight, who said his client just didn't happen to have much cash on his person the day he went to town hall, told HuffPost Miami the suit is "not just about photography.
"Bill sees this as a wider, ongoing scheme to frustrate the public from getting access to information about this proposed prison that city officials seem determined to push through despite public opposition," he said.
Southwest Ranches town attorney Keith Poliakoff said in an email that "the Town takes all lawsuits against the Town seriously," regardless of dollar amount. He dismissed the idea that there was more to Di Scipio's suit.
"He specifically sued the Town for $1.25...I assume he knows what he filed?" Poliakoff wrote when given a chance to respond, adding, "the 'ongoing scheme to frustrate the public' is not even alleged in this Complaint."
Poliakoff, who in a June email urged officials to maintain a "cone of silence" following a federal announcement that a tentative deal for the controversial detention center had been reached, said Southwest Ranches has provided Di Scipio with copies of all of 36 public records requests he says Di Scipio has made in the past few months.
"The Town even cleared an area for Mr. Di Scipio to bring in his own copy machine when he did not desire to pay for the Town's copies," he wrote.
Whatever the suit's outcome, one thing is sure: the fight isn't going down easy. McKnight said Di Scipio has found city officials are using personal email accounts to avoid public accountability concerning the project, and Poliakoff said Southwest Ranches is up for a little hardball with McKnight's client.
"The Town will not hesitate to seek full damages and fees against Mr. Di Scipio and his legal counsel for filing such a frivolous complaint," he said in an email.