The University of Central Florida’s motion for rehearing on a lawsuit filed by Knight News concerning a series of public records violations and attempts to keep SGA impeachment records secret has been denied by the 5th District Court of Appeals, effectively ensuring victory for Knight News in the first of a series of three lawsuits filed against the University.
This first lawsuit dates back to 2012, when Knight News asked the University for copies of impeachment and election violation affidavits filed against various high-ranking members of the Student Government Association, some of whom were accused of bribery and corruption. The request specified that if the documents should be redacted for any reason, that the University provide the statuary exemptions for doing so.
The University responded by sending versions of the documents which redacted the names of the individuals facing impeachment and election violation charges, without providing a statutory exemption which would justify the redactions.
Another part of the lawsuit concerns UCF’s failure to produce public records concerning election violations, expense reports, the Activity and Service Fee budget, and hazing violations. The Court ruled that names of people suspected of hazing could be withheld, as long as the hazing was not violent in nature.
This ruling strengthens Knight News’ case in two more recent and ongoing lawsuits, one concerning Jake Milich and Elaine Sarlo’s removal from the SGA Presidential ballot for violations which were presented in a secret meeting, and another concerning SGA’s decision to hold important budget meetings after the campus dorms had closed for winter break, the removal of an open forum from a Senate meeting in which that budget was voted on, and UCF’s failure to provide documents relating to the budget within a reasonable amount of time.
The entire Fifth District Court of Appeal’s en banc ruling effectively strengthened the original opinion issued by only three judges and essentially deems this case unworthy of a review by the Florida Supreme Court. If UCF decides to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, it appears unlikely the Court would hear the case.