Florida Times-Union by David Bauerlein
August 22, 2020
The city of Jacksonville’s top attorney says any claims of “executive privilege” invoked by a mayor or his staff do not extend to documents that are covered by the state public records law.
The issue of whether and when executive privilege can be invoked has come up during an investigation by City Council into the failed attempt last year to negotiate a potential sale of JEA. It also could affect future investigations undertaken by the council.
A July 17 legal memo written by an attorney in the city’s Office of General Counsel determined that executive privilege can cover “any communications” between a mayor and his advisers, or “any communications” among the advisers about matters that fall within the mayor’s decision-making power.
The memo by Stephen Durden did not draw any distinction between verbal communications versus written communications. Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law says documents such as emails, texts, and memos are public record that must be made available upon request.
in response to questions from the Times-Union, General Counsel Jason Gabriel said an executive privilege claim cannot trump state public records law.