Citizens for Sunshine is not well known everywhere in Florida, but that may change this year.
Public officials in the Sarasota area have learned to be wary of the nonprofit, which has made itself an enforcer of open-government laws here for years. Now, with a high-profile case against Gov. Rick Scott, some observers may ask: What is Citizens for Sunshine?
Since its founding in 2008, the group has successfully litigated numerous open-government complaints under Florida’s Sunshine Law here in Southwest Florida. One public records case in 2010 led to the recall of an Anna Maria city commissioner, and several more have forced cities and school boards to admit Sunshine violations and reverse decisions.
Legal bills for those disputes have been expensive for taxpayers.
Over the past six years, nearly $2 million has been paid out by local governments to fight or settle more than a dozen Citizens for Sunshine cases. Some of that money has gone to pay Citizens for Sunshine’s attorney, but more has been spent by cities defending against the suits.
This year, Citizens for Sunshine is taking on its biggest case yet, leading a group of major Florida newspapers and national media companies in a lawsuit against Scott and the Florida Cabinet.
The group’s complaint alleges that the governor violated the Sunshine Law in carrying out a controversial change in leadership at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement late last year.
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