In 2014 and early 2015, the town of Gulf Stream found itself under assault from Martin O’Boyle and Christopher O’Hare, two residents who overwhelmed the town with thousands of public records requests and dozens of lawsuits. Town Hall became virtually unable to serve Gulf Stream residents.
    To defend against this ongoing public records abuse, Gulf Stream brought in legal staff to create a policy to respond to records requests. In addition, Gulf Stream learned through its RICO investigation about other Florida abuses committed by the O’Boyle Law Firm and a related O’Boyle company called Citizens Awareness Foundation, which it added to the town’s defenses in the public records lawsuits.
    Since Gulf Stream took these actions, public records requests have dropped from 80-plus per day down to several a week. In addition, there has not been another public records lawsuit against Gulf Stream in over a year and a half. Of the old lawsuits, Gulf Stream won or forced the dismissal of four of them, and won verdicts or forced the dismissal of six additional non-public records lawsuits.
    I cannot overstate how the volume of lawsuits and records requests back in 2013 and 2014 overwhelmed our small staff. The clerks regularly worked nights and weekends; they put off other town responsibilities; they hunted through old file cabinets and closed land-use folders trying to respond to requests pouring in almost daily; they called commissioners, board members, past employees and active and retired police to identify documents and their possible locations. But, the quantity of these requests was simply not manageable, and some documents were inadvertently missed.
    At no time did staff refuse the legitimacy of O’Boyle’s or O’Hare’s requests or try to prevent them from receiving documents. For example, one such request required production of “All photos of people riding bicycles on N. Ocean Blvd. in the town’s public record.” Since town records go back to its founding in 1925, this request necessitated a needle-in-the-haystack search, and for which we were still sued over a “gotcha” photograph.
    A case currently being litigated involves some inadvertently missed documents. Despite a good-faith effort to locate all requested records, missing records constitute a technical violation of the public records law, so the town offered to settle the case. O’Boyle’s settlement demand, however, was so outrageously high that the town concluded it was in its best financial interest to go to trial and let a judge determine reasonable fees. That case was tried recently and there will be a hearing on fees in the near future.
    The town is confident that under Florida law, the court will award fees up to the performance of the records request and not beyond. This is why the town elected to try this case, as it will any other case where it appears that O’Boyle built up large attorneys’ fees.
    Gulf Stream will continue to defend the remaining O’Boyle and O’Hare lawsuits until our two litigious residents drop the meritless cases and negotiate reasonable settlements in good faith on the others.

Scott W. Morgan
Mayor, Gulf Stream

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