FLORIDA–Once a court has revealed the identify of a confidential informant, the police must disclose information about the amount of money they paid him, a unanimous state appeals court in Tampa ruled in mid-September.
However the appeals panel sent the case back to trial court ordering the judge to personally inspect records to ensure that information that might reveal the informant’s connection to other, specific cases would be withheld.
The city of St. Petersburg in September 1997 refused to give an attorney from the public defender’s office in Clearwater records showing payment to longtime police and sheriff’s informant Leon McCullough. The city cited an exemption in the state open records law for information “revealing the identity” of a confidential source.
But attorney Stephen Romine, who had watched McCullough testify in a public courtroom against his client, said that his request concerning McCullough’s compensation would not reveal anyone’s identity. He filed a FOI request for the information in circuit court in Clearwater and the court in November 1997 ruled in his favor.
The city appealed, saying that if it gave out the information, anyone could find out if an individual was an informant or not simply by seeking compensation records.
However, Romine said the public is entitled to know something about the relationship between the city and McCullough, who claimed in a deposition to have worked as an informant in nearly 1800 cases since 1988, receiving personal maintenance as well as cash from the law enforcement agencies.
The appeals panel said that disclosure of payments to McCullough would not reveal his status as an informer because that had already been made public. (City of St. Petersburg v. Romine; Counsel: Stephen Romine, Clearwater, pro se)