A recent ruling by Brevard County Judge Naberhaus dealt a significant blow to Brevard School Board Chair Matt Susin in his attempts to avoid public records requests filed by fellow School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins. Judge Naberhaus denied Susin’s request to dismiss the suit based on his argument that the records were not public records. “[T]he Court cannot definitively conclude from the four corners of the Complaint that the records at issue are not “public records” under the Florida Public Records Act.” Order, p. 3. Judge Naberhaus ordered the case to proceed on its merits.
The dispute arose when Jenkins sought records of Susin’s communications, specifically calls, texts, and phone logs, after Susin publicly referenced them during school board meetings. The communications involved the Florida Department of Education, Representative Randy Fine, and the false report alleging that a transgendered student had committed sexual assault. The records, if provided, would shed light on Susin’s credibility and possible coordination with other officials. “Taking the allegations as true, JENKINS is not pursuing a fishing expedition based on sheer speculation. … Defendant’s [motion to dismiss] arguments are based on assumptions and possible facts that reach beyond the four corners of the Amended Complaint, and they do not take into account the argument that the call logs formalize information as to the existence of a call being made from one identifiable number to another.” Order, p. 9.
In what appears to be a growing pattern of obstruction, Susin has been remarkably evasive, continually asserting that these records are not subject to Florida’s Public Records Act since call logs are created by his personal cell phone company and don’t reveal the content of the conversations. However, Jenkins and her attorney, Jessica J. Travis of DefendBrevard.com, firmly believe that the logs – detailing the timing, duration, and recipient of Susin’s calls – can verify if these stated communications took place and establish the timing of the communications in relation to the false allegations and other official conduct.
Susin’s contrasting responses to Jenkins’s public records requests shows a pattern of non-compliance. On multiple occasions, Susan claimed no records existed to meet Jenkins’ requests, but other government agencies provided the exact records in question. For instance, while Susin denied the existence of any communications with BCSO during a controversial discipline video incident, the Sheriff’s office provided communications with Susin, contradicting his claims.
Attorney Jessica J. Travis, Jenkins’ legal representative, is rapidly emerging as an advocate for accountability in Brevard County. She is actively challenging officials like Susin who appear to circumvent Florida’s public records laws. Her arguments strongly emphasize that Susin has a legal responsibility to maintain and provide these records, irrespective of their source or the inconvenience involved.
The case exposes potential willful and deliberate pattern of breaking Florida public record laws. Given the magnitude of the case and the emerging evidence, it stands to resonate across Florida, reiterating the necessity of transparency and adherence to public records laws by elected officials. As the case continues to unfold, many will be watching to see if Jenkins and Travis’s persistent pursuit of transparency prevails.