June 13, 2016 – Politico
by Daniel Ducassi
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is refusing to release records related to Omar Mateen’s firearms license and security officer license.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam told reporters on Monday that the information on Mateen’s application is “rich with information” relevant to the investigation of the mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday. He said his department is “working with the FBI and other state and federal law enforcement agencies to coordinate the appropriate timing of the release of those records.”
Despite numerous requests, his department has not cited any part of any law that allows officials to hold on to the records.
Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, told POLITICO Florida that the agency doesn’t have the option to simply withhold the records. “They have to provide you with the statutory citation or they have to give you the records,” she said.
Petersen noted that the records “existed prior to the investigation. Therefore, even though they might be pulled into the investigation, maybe the FBI or whoever wants these records, that doesn’t mean they’re now exempt from public disclosure.”
There is a state exemption for “active criminal investigative information,” though the department did not cite that exemption. Such information is considered “active” only “as long as it is related to an ongoing investigation which is continuing with a reasonable, good faith anticipation of securing an arrest or prosecution in the foreseeable future.”
Petersen said law enforcement agencies often claim investigative exemptions even when they don’t apply, and that doing so is often not in the public’s best interest.
“Keeping information from the public doesn’t quell fear and concern,” Petersen said.
Putnam has said that Mateen had a clean record when he applied for his licenses, which allowed him to carry two firearms while working as a security officer.
Without the records, Petersen noted, there was no way to verify Putnam’s assertions.
“What they’re really doing is dragging their feet because they don’t want the information released yet,” Petersen said. [READ MORE]