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Rush v. High Springs

Florida Court of Appeal, First District

February 23, 2012

Robyn RUSH, Appellant,
v.
HIGH SPRINGS, Florida, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied March 27, 2012.

Page 1109

Joseph W. Little, Gainesville, for Appellant.

Leonard J. Dietzen, III, and Linda Bond Edwards of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

DANIEL, JAMES H., J., Associate Judge.

This appeal concerns whether Appellee City of High Springs (hereinafter the City) violated the Public Records Act by redacting questions and answers from a pre-employment polygraph report before releasing it to Appellant (hereinafter Rush). The trial court found that the City had properly redacted the material pursuant to section 119.071(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2010). This provision exempts from the Public Records Act any examination questions and answers prepared and received by a government agency for the purpose of employment. Given the plain meaning of the language contained in the exemption, we agree with the trial court that the City properly redacted the questions and answers from this particular pre-employment polygraph examination.

The City ordered the report in question as part of the pre-employment process for a candidate applying to become a reserve police officer. The examiner conducted the polygraph and released a three-page report to the City. The first two pages of the report detailed some of the questions asked and answers given during the examination, as well as the examiner's observations of the applicant's demeanor. The third page contained the results of the examination, which the examiner indicated were " inconclusive."

Rush then filed several public records requests related to the report, initially requesting only the " results" section of the report and later requesting the " comments and findings" section. In response to these requests, the City redacted the questions and answers from the report, claiming

Page 1110

they were exempt from the Public Records Act pursuant to section 119.071(1)(a). It then released the redacted report to Rush.

Rush disagreed with the City's decision to redact the report. After unsuccessfully trying to obtain the full report, she filed a four-count complaint demanding, among other things, that the City release the report in its complete, unredacted form. In the complaint, she claimed section 119.071(1)(a) was not meant to apply to pre-employment polygraphs. Both parties moved for summary judgment on each count of the complaint.

Ultimately, the trial court agreed with the City that section 119.071(1)(a) covers those questions asked and the answers given during a pre-employment polygraph. For this reason, it granted summary judgment to the City on those counts of the complaint alleging it had improperly redacted the report. [1] Rush now appeals the order entering final judgment to the City on those counts.

The question presented in the instant appeal is essentially one of statutory interpretation, namely whether the exemption to the Public Records Act contained in section 119.071(1)(a) applies to questions and answers contained in a pre-employment polygraph report. Because the issue is one of statutory interpretation, and the order on appeal is a grant of summary judgment, review is de novo. See Hill v. Davis, 70 So.3d 572, 575 (Fla.2011); Volusia County v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So.2d 126, 130 (Fla.2000).

With respect to any question that involves statutory interpretation, " [l]egislative intent guides statutory analysis, and to discern that intent we must look first to the language of the statute and its plain meaning." See Fla. Dep't of Children & Family Servs. v. P.E.,14 So.3d 228, 234 (Fla.2009). Courts are " without power to construe an unambiguous statute in a way which would extend, modify, or limit, its express terms or its reasonable and obvious implications." Holly v. Auld,450 So.2d 217, 219 (Fla.1984), quoting American Bankers Life Assurance Co. of Fla. v. Williams,212 So.2d 777, 778 (Fla. 1st DCA 1968). " Thus, if the meaning of ...


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