By Mike Wright, Citrus County Chronicle
A judge this month ruled that citrus County officials violated the state’s public records law in a lawsuit involving the Ozello Water Association.
The county must pay for a forensic expert to search the computer hard drive of a consultant to retrieve e-mails that may have been improperly deleted, court records show.
The county also must have a public records policy in place by early September, Circuit Court Judge Patricia Thomas ruled July 2.
It also must pay Ozello Water $21,174 to cover its legal fees in a months-long battle to receive public records. County Attorney Robert “Butch” Battista did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.
Court records indicated that top county official had little knowledge of state law regarding the protection of public records.
In November, Ozello Water attorney Paul Quin sent public records requests to the county and Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, a consultant hired by the county to oversee the Ozello Water agreement.
Although it’s a private company, Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, or HTA, must abide by the same public records law because it is doing work that would be done by the county if a consultant didn’t do it, Quin said.
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