June 13, 2019
The jury’s still out on whether Gov. Ron DeSantis will do a better job of protecting open government and public records than his predecessor.
Former Gov. Rick Scott was famous for skirting public records law. Even as he took office, his transition staff announced that all his email had been accidentally deleted. He used a private email account in an attempt to keep public records secret and then forswore using email at all.
In 2015, he settled seven open-records lawsuits for $700,000 (more than half of that money came out of the Department of Environmental Protection’s budget). Each year when the Legislature passed new exceptions to the Sunshine Law, Scott’s signature could be counted on.
This means that enjoying a better reputation for open government and public records transparency shouldn’t prove difficult for DeSantis.
So far, his record is skimpy and mixed. The Florida Cabinet’s meeting in Israel attracted an unsuccessful court challenge. DeSantis dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” but it raised legitimate concerns about his commitment to the spirit of the law.
And it remains to be seen how he will react to the Legislature’s slew of Sunshine Law and public records law exemptions.