Tampa Bay Times by Lawrence Mower
August 24, 2020
TALLAHASSEE — Florida officials are refusing to say how much Deloitte Consulting bid on a potential $135 million contract to handle the state’s Medicaid data, claiming the company believes the information is a “trade secret” and not releasable under the state’s public records law.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration is now asking Deloitte and its four competitors to get a judge to say why their bid amounts should not be considered public records. If the companies want to avoid the legal route, they could remove their claim that the information is a trade secret and allow the release of the information.
“The Agency wants and intends to release all documents absent valid confidentiality,” Fred Piccolo, spokesman for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said in a statement. “(The Agency for Health Care Administration) encourages all parties to seek judicial review quickly.”
The statement came after the agency, and a law firm the agency hired, refused to release the amount of each company’s bid in response to public records requests by the Times/Herald. They also refused to release the amounts when contacted by a Tampa Bay Times lawyer last week.
The idea that the amount of each company’s bid is not a public record under state law is “absolutely ridiculous,” according to Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation, which advocates for open government. (The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald are members of the nonprofit.)
“This is outrageous,” Marsh said. “This is a serious abuse of the public records law.”