ORLANDO, Fla. — On Feb. 17, Gov. Rick Scott began his day in Naples. At an unknown time he and an unknown number of guests and staff left the Naples Municipal Airport and at an unknown time, he later landed in St. Petersburg-Clearwater.
A stop at the Pinellas Realtors Organization came next, followed by a meeting with Virginia Haworth at an undisclosed location with an undisclosed number of people.
More redactions to the schedule follow and it isn’t until Scott and his staff arrived at the Greater Orlando Aviation Office that times again appear on the governor’s schedule, also known as a line-by-line.
Eyewitness News reviewed two months of Scott’s travel history and on almost every day, sections of the schedule dealing with travel, meetings and times are blacked out and restricted from public view.
The large swaths of redactions to the governor’s travel history are carried out by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, citing 119.07 (2)(d) of the Florida Statutes.
The statute deals with surveillance tactics and in a statement to 9 Investigates, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wrote, “The redactions to the line-by-lines are to prevent surveillance by persons who may want to physically harm the governor or his family.
“Disclosing information such as travel time, manifest and hotels would reveal patters in the governor’s travel and could pose a security threat to the governor. Security protocols utilized by FDLE Protective Operations are reviewed often and changes are made as necessary to protect the governor and his family.”
But Eyewitness News has learned that these security concerns seem to be a recent thing. Former Governors Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Lawton Chiles routinely turned over their line-by-lines without the redactions.
Even line-by-lines from Scott did not feature the large redactions until almost two years ago.
“FDLE makes the decision on that,” said Scott when asked by Eyewitness News about the blacked out sections of his travel history. “I think they do it based on security issues.”
It is in the name of security that future travel plans are not released from the governor’s office until 24 hours in advance. But the line-by-lines are a travel record which should show who the governor is meeting with and for how long.
The records should also show who is traveling with the governor, information that advocates said needs to be part of the public record.
“This is travel that has already occurred,” said Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a non-partisan open government advocacy group. “Our courts have said that exemptions to the right of access, we have a constitutional right of access to the records of government are to be strictly construed and narrowly applied.”
While times and names are blacked out from Scott’s travel history, other pieces of information remain intact. On Feb. 17, a late lunch stop at the Panera Bread on Lake Nona Village Place is listed.
However, the rest of the day from 3:30 p.m. until the end of the day has redactions that only list a “private residence” in Naples as the final destination.
“It’s a question of oversight and accountability. It’s also a question of transparency,” said Petersen. “We want to know who the governor is meeting with, where the governor is going.”