DeFuniak Springs City Councilman Kermit Wright really, really, really doesn’t like Florida’s open-government, or sunshine, laws. And he doesn’t mind saying so.
“The sunshine law is a communist plot straight out of Stalin,” he told the Daily News’ Tom McLaughlin the other day. “I don’t like it or anything that restricts free speech. It’s against everything I stand for.”
Mr. Wright was commenting on a former police captain’s lawsuit alleging sunshine law violations in DeFuniak Springs. There’s no reason to believe that Wright, who was elected in 2011 and recently re-elected, has broken any laws. But his assertion that open-government requirements are a commie plot begs for a response.
We suspect the thugs who ran Josef Stalin’s Russia had no use for open meetings, open records and transparent decision-making. Soviet tyranny operated amid secrecy, not openness. It’s nonsense to think that Stalin — or Khrushchev or Brezhnev or any of Russia’s other hard-liners from the old days — begat today’s sunshine laws.
And the only instances of “free speech” restricted by Florida’s sunshine law are whispered bargains and back-room deals. Elected officials are barred from discussing, outside of public meetings, issues on which they may have to vote.
To that end, Mr. Wright said he has deleted other City Council members’ phone numbers from his telephone. To avoid possibly troublesome conversations, he said, he sits in his truck each meeting night until the council meeting begins.
“I hate (the sunshine law) but I’m not going to jail for it,” he said. “It’s a law I despise, but I have to honor it.”
That’s correct. He does.
We would rather Mr. Wright showed greater appreciation for the ideals of open government. But if he has decided to abide by the sunshine law mainly to stay out of the slammer, that’s good enough.
Original article here.