Government in the Sunshine:
A Citizen's Guide

The booklet covers both state and national laws that give the public access to government information and meetings. It contains a list of recourses for citizens seeking information and a sample letter to request public records.

Open as a PDF.

View the 12-minute video overview.


The Brechner Report

The Brechner Report is the Center's monthly newsletter, summarizing recent developments in Florida's open government laws. "The Back Page" of The Brechner Report features commentary by prominent journalists, attorneys and scholars on contemporary media law issues.

See current and past issues.


The Brechner Award

The Brechner Center sponsors an annual $3,000 cash award recognizing excellence in reporting about freedom of information, access to government-held information, or the First Amendment.

Read about current and past winners.

Brechner Center Presents 28th Annual Brechner Award

Sandra Chance, Lenore Devore, Ralph Lowenstein and Lyle McBride.

Sandra Chance, Lenore Devore, Ralph Lowenstein and Lyle McBride.

The Ledger(Lakeland) has been named the winner of the 28th Annual Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award for its investigative series. The award-winning series highlights the difficulties reporters and citizens face when they try to exercise their fundamental constitutional right to access government information.

Editor Lenore Devore and Investigative Reporting Team Editor Lyle McBride represented the award-winning investigative team at the Floirda Free Speech Forum's Buddy Davis luncheon on April 14, 2014, and received the $3000 cash award.

"Their series revealed shocking ineptitude, diregard for public oversight and blatant violations of Florida's open governement laws in Polk County, " said Brechner Center Executive Director Sandra Chance. "This series is a terrific example of the importance of government-in-the-sunshine laws and a free press dedicated to informing the public and serving as a government watchdog."

Learn more about the Brechner Freedom of Information Award.

Open Government Pledge

The Brechner Center encourages candidates to express their commitment to open government. Click here for the pledge and instructions on submitting your signed pledge to us.

Interested in who has already signed the pledge? Click here to see a list of public officials who have made a public commitment to government transparency.

 

Our Mission

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida exists to advance understanding, appreciation and support for freedom of information in the state of Florida, the nation and the world.

Through education and promotion of freedom of information laws and policies, the Center seeks to foster open government and a participatory democracy.

In addition, The Brechner Center serves the public with information about the First Amendment, freedom of information, and access to government information issues.

Since 1977, The Brechner Center has been a freedom of information resource in Florida and beyond.

What We Do

  • Educate the public, press and government officials about the value of open government and the important role that freedom of information plays in a democracy.
  • Monitor developments in the area of freedom of information at all levels of government.
  • Provide clear, current and useful information in response to queries about First Amendment and access issues.
  • Conduct and publish scholarly research that underscores the importance of freedom of information to society.
  • Foster the work of graduate students in the areas of media law and policy.

Current Projects & Resources

  • The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information conducted a Social Media and Smartphone Policy Audit in 2011-2012, funded by a grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC). The purpose of the audit was to see how Florida's counties are handling the requirements of the public records and open meetings laws in relation to social media and smartphones. Executive Summary.
  • Florida Attorney General McCollum has launched the Government Accountability Project (GAP), in partnership with The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information with the objective of encouraging state and local government entities to be proactive in providing Florida’s citizens the information and records they need to hold government accountable. Read the GAP Phase 1 Report.
  • Prof. Sandra Chance is serving as the chair of the national Liberty Tree Campus Initiative. The Liberty Tree Campus Initiative, through a grant from the McCormick Foundation, will provide $5,000 to colleges and universities to host a Liberty Tree Initiative program, tapping the talents of local and national experts and educators to illuminate pivotal First Amendment issues.
  • Prosecution Database- Chronology listing known cases in which public officials either pleaded no contest or guilty to or were convicted of criminal or civil charges under the Open Records or Open Meetings Law.
  • Attorney's Fees Database- A chronology of cases in which plaintiffs obtained litigation expenses in legal actions filed under Florida’s Open Meetings or Open Records laws..
  • 2011 Legislative Update:-During the 2011 session, Florida lawmakers passed 9 new exemptions to the state's open government laws.
  • 2012 Legislative Update:-During the 2012 session, Florida lawmakers passed 8 new exemptions to the state's open government laws.
  • House- Learn how your state representatives voted on each bill.
  • Senate- Learn how your senators voted on each bill