Lake City’s Own Sunshine Girls
Audrey Sikes and Michelle Green
Columbia County, FL (posted March 16, 2009)
by Stew Lilker
City Clerk, Audrey
Sikes, sorts through the city's electronic data base of
Gov. Charlie Crist has proclaimed this week “A
Week of Sunshine” and urged Florida’s citizens to
celebrate Florida’s dedication to making state and local
government accessible and transparent to the public.
Two weeks ago the Observer interviewed Lake City’s
own Sunshine Girls, City Clerk Audrey Sikes and Deputy
Clerk Michelle Green. The City Clerk’s Office serves as
a beacon of sunshine for all of Columbia County and is
no doubt what the Governor had in mind when he
proclaimed “A Week of Sunshine.”
Lake City’s dedication to the Sunshine Laws is best
told in the words of the folks that make the system work
every day, City Clerk Audrey Sikes and her deputy,
How many requests did you have last year and how long
does it usually take to answer them?
Sikes: Last year we had
399 requests. We try to answer them as soon as we can.
It depends on what’s going on. I would say most of the
time we answer the request in the same day.
What has been your biggest request?
Last year we had one request that ended up being just
under 6000 pages. It was mostly e mails and we had to go
page by page. Even though we are just about all digital,
that didn’t help with this request.
How much did that cost?
(Ms. Sikes spun around and brought up her excel
spread sheet, which the city uses for tracking records
requests. She had the answer in about ten seconds)
This was a big job. It cost $2257.31. The only way we
could keep track of this was to keep a time log. This
was really a lot of work and I think we lost money on
How many requests did you charge for last year?
Only about fifteen. This year so far we’ve received 93
requests and charged for five. I think we are very fair
and have not charged for time this year. If we do maps
we charge exactly what Hunter Printing charges us and
even if we have a pull charge, we absorb that.
Do you charge if someone wants to inspect records?
Ms. Sikes: I
don’t charge if I am doing my work. If I can do
something else, why would I charge? That would not be in
the spirit of the Sunshine Laws. If you want to come in and read minute books while I do my
work, you can come in and sit there all day, every day.
is our job to serve the public and we do it the best
that we can.
Mayor Steve Witt and City Clerk Audrey Sikes.
(Lake City’s popular mayor, Steve Witt stopped by
unannounced looking for a record. Once again, it took
only a few moments for Ms. Sikes to locate the record)
Mr. Mayor, I’m doing a story on the City Clerk’s Office
and records access. Would you like to say something?
Mayor Witt: Audrey and
Michelle do a great job for us and all the city’s
residents. I don’t know what we would do without them.
(The Mayor left with the information he needed)
Audrey, what do you do if someone wants to listen to a
tape of one of the city’s meetings.
We let them listen to it. From time to time Jeff
Hardison of the Lake City Reporter needs to listen to a
tape. I set the tape recorder up outside my office and
let him listen to it. This way the media can take their
notes and do what they have to do without someone
looking over their shoulder.
One final question before I speak with your deputy. How
are you folks about answering questions?
Even though the public records law says we don’t have to
answer questions, we do. If we can help someone, why
wouldn’t we? Oh, and one more thing. Before you speak to
Michelle, I have to mention Zac [Mears] our IT guy. He
is doing a great job and we couldn’t do this without him
and his support.
(The Observer went down the hall and spoke with
Deputy Clerk, Michelle Green)
That is quite a scanner you have there. Can you tell me
a little about it.
Ms. Green: I know
it’s a Fujitsu and it scans about a hundred sides a
minute. Zac knows all the technical stuff. We scan the
documents in and we can send them out in either tif or
What is digitized, so far?
Ms. Green: Right
now we scan all the contracts, leases, minutes,
resolutions. We do it as we get it. I am trying to
obtain all the material for the Council meetings before
the meeting. If I have it prior to the meeting, they can
have it digitally.
It’s getting late and I appreciate your staying after
hours to answer these questions. Is there anything else
you’d like to say.
Ms. Green: For our
office, doing things digitally is the way to go. It is
efficient and saves us money. It takes less time for me to
scan and e mail something than getting up and making a
copy and all the rest that that entails. Having
everything in digital format makes research a breeze. If
I have it in the computer I can usually have it
available in a flash.
Deputy Clerk Michelle Green looking at just
a few of the papers that are in the city's
digitized filling system.
It’s a whole new world. I don’t know how we did it
before technology. The benefits far outweigh the cost.
(Ms. Sikes stepped in the office)
I’d like to thank you two for your time. Audrey, I leave
the last word for you.
We hope to eventually open this up to the public and we
hope by next month to have our indexed records open in
It is our job to serve the public and we do it the best
that we can.