Daily Commerical by Will Hobson/ The Washington Post
June 18, 2019
On a recent morning, Barbara Petersen — president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Florida nonprofit that advocates for open government — got a text message from a friend with a link to a news story about Florida State athletics. In the text message, Petersen said, her like-minded friend added her reaction to the story with a three-word phrase that began with the words “What the,” and ended with an expletive.
The story was about Florida State creating a private nonprofit organization to oversee its athletic department, a move that will effectively shield athletic officials at one of Florida’s flagship public universities from having to comply with public records law. Once the transition is complete later this year, Florida State athletics officials — just like their colleagues at Florida and Central Florida, who made similar structural changes years ago — will no longer be required by law to turn over internal financial documents, emails, text messages and other records to inquiring journalists and citizens.
To Petersen and other advocates for government transparency, the announcement prompted concerns Florida State athletics officials are trying to avoid the public scrutiny and oversight that usually comes with working at a public university.
“It’s outrageous,” Petersen said. “It really doesn’t make much sense to me, except that they want to do everything secretly.”
In a phone interview, Florida State President John Thrasher said secrecy was not a motivation for the restructuring. Thrasher pledged that Florida State athletics officials will continue to fulfill records requests as if nothing has changed, even after state public records law no longer applies to them.