Several news organizations have joined a Sunshine lawsuit filed last week against Gov. Rick Scott, according to a Sarasota attorney leading the case.
Eight newspapers, two television stations, two media companies and a nonprofit investigative reporter organization have joined the suit, which claims that Scott violated the state’s Sunshine Law in communicating with Cabinet members about a controversial change in leadership at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Last week, Scott apologized for how his office handled the December dismissal of FDLE chief Gerald Bailey, the state’s former top law enforcement officer. The admission came as Scott tried to quell a growing controversy that has dominated the start to his second term.
The governor continued to deny allegations made by the ousted Bailey that he was forced out, in part, for refusing to target an Orange County official in a criminal investigation.
Among the newspapers joining the suit this week are the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, the Pensacola News-Journal, Fort Myers News-Press, Florida Today in Brevard County, and the Tallahassee Democrat.
Television stations WTSP Channel 10 News in Tampa and WJXX First Coast News in Jacksonville also joined the suit, along withe media companies Gannett Co. and Scripps Media and the nonprofit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
The lawsuit was filed last week by Sarasota attorney Andrea Mogensen, representing Citizens for Sunshine, a nonprofit group that has advocated for open government across the state but especially around Sarasota and Manatee counties. Other original plaintiffs in the suit were the Associated Press, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner, who has called for an investigation of the replacement of Bailey.
The added interest in the lawsuit came after Cabinet members, given the chance to finally air their concerns face-to-face, seemed unwilling to push Scott too hard. Members of the Cabinet, which includes the governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, had been critical of the governor’s office during the episode.
The complaint accuses Scott of using aides or “conduits” in polling the Cabinet on “his unilateral decision to force the resignation of the FDLE Commissioner and appoint a replacement without any notice to the public.”
“We anticipate that additional parties may join soon and expect an amended complaint to be filed before the end of this week adding these parties,” Mogensen said.
The suit asks that a court declare the episode violated the Sunshine Law and issue a permanent injunction against “polling, discussions, and communications” about appointments before public cabinet meetings. It also asks for payment of attorneys’ fees if the suit prevails.
Original article here.