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Hialeah’s Public Records Controversy: A Standoff Over 911 Operations

Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos

The Councilman’s Request and the City’s Response

Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo and Councilman Bryan Calvo have been at odds over a public records request involving the city’s 911 operations. Councilman Calvo was informed by Hialeah City Clerk Marbelys Fatjo that fulfilling his request would require an additional 170 hours of work. The request included searching for specific keywords related to the 911 department, such as “lost,” “abandoned,” “complaint,” “staffing,” “shortage,” “crisis,” and “drastic.”

The City Information Technology Department discovered 10,242 emails containing the requested search terms. Fatjo stated that the estimated time to review these emails for confidential or exempt information would be 170 hours. The cost for this “special service” was calculated based on the employee’s hourly rate, salary, and benefits, amounting to $6,769.

On June 27, the same day Calvo made the public records request, he also urged other council members to back his proposal to investigate the 911 department. However, he did not receive support. The city clerk later informed Calvo that his investigation effort is being treated as a “public records request,” which comes with a cost for review and redaction of confidential or exempt information.

According to information provided by the City Clerk’s office to el Nuevo Herald, there is no record in the last 10 years of any city council member being charged for public records. Mayor Bovo stated that since the council did not authorize Calvo’s investigation, he could not allow department employees to comply with the request.

Former Hialeah Mayor Raúl Martínez expressed that he had never heard of a council member being charged for performing their job, which includes investigating and informing themselves before making decisions on city issues. The Hialeah municipal code allows the City Council to inquire into the conduct of any municipal office and to investigate municipal affairs.

Mayor Bovo mentioned that he was exploring alternatives to provide Calvo with the requested information. However, he also criticized Calvo for not asking the necessary questions and not meeting with department representatives. Bovo stated that he would not pay attention to what he considered to be Calvo’s “nonsense.”

For Councilman Calvo, the situation raises concerns about local transparency. He stated that such actions would be expected in a country without democracy and that the people deserve answers. El Nuevo Herald surveyed nearby municipalities and found that none had records of charging elected council members for public records in the last 20 years.

The political tension between Councilman Calvo and Mayor Bovo is not new. They have publicly clashed over various issues in the past year, including the creation of a redevelopment agency, the city budget, and increasing water rates. Both were elected in November 2021 and will complete their first terms in 2025.