A Leon County, Fla., circuit court judge will soon decide if federal law bars the state from releasing certain records that might reveal more about the Florida International University (FIU) bridge collapse that killed six people this past March.
Judge Kevin J. Carroll heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit over the records, which the Miami Herald filed in May after months of trying to obtain documents regarding the collapse. The requested records include meeting minutes, emails and other documents relating to the bridge’s design and construction.
Though the state has said the records are public under Florida law, it argued that it lost the right to share those records with the news media when it became a party to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation days after the bridge failed. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) filed a motion to dismiss the suit and cited a federal regulation that shields documents relating to an NTSB investigation. The NTSB, which is still investigating the collapse of the 950-ton bridge, has ordered the state agency not to release documents from after Feb. 19.
FIU and the city of Sweetwater, which was also involved in the project, also have cited the ongoing NTSB investigation as an exception to the state’s public records law. The parties have released records to the media earlier than the cut-off date.
The bridge collapsed on the afternoon of March 15, just days after cracks had been observed in the $14.3 million structure. On the morning of the bridge failure, FIU held a two-hour meeting with its engineers and FDOT to discuss whether cracks in the structure presented a safety risk.
The federal government had delayed directly weighing in on the lawsuit but filed a statement of intent late Monday supporting the state’s motion to dismiss the case.
Source: Miami Herald