TALLAHASSEE -- Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's office has withdrawn a subpoena it filed with a Tallahassee-based public-radio station after learning the reporter was "uncomfortable" with the tactic.
Atwater's office has subpoenaed the audio and notes from WFSU reporter Lynn Hatter following a radio report on the federal health-care exchanges for the uninsured.
Atwater spokesman Chris Cate had said yesterday the move came at the request of Florida State University's lawyers in order to avoid filing a public records request.
"[A] subpoena for audio was issued at the direct request of the university – in the alternative to a public records request," Cate said in an email Wednesday.
The case was a curious one because WFSU technically is a public agency and falls under the state's open-records law. But the news organization could also fall under Florida's shield-law protecting journalists from being compelled to disclose the sources of their information.
On Thursday, Cate said after dicussing the issue with Hatter, the subpoena had been dropped.
"Our work with FSU and the WFSU reporter was fully cooperative in a collaborative effort to protect Floridians from being victimized by fraud," Cate said in a statement. "When we hear reports of Floridians being targets of fraud, whether it is a tip from a consumer or a reporter’s news account, we have a responsibility to look into the issue in the interest of protecting Floridians."
The exchanges are a key component of the much-maligned roll-out of the Affordable Care Act this fall. In some cases, insurance agents are reportedly spreading inaccurate information on the exchanges to attempt to capture business. Hatter had visited an evening meeting put on by private insurance groups attempting to educate the public, but providing "misinformation" at a Tallahassee-area church.
"Citizens who report information remain anonymous and our work with reporters is only with their full cooperation and consent," Cate said.