Sorry for the delay – time for another installment of Inside the Tallahassee bubble news
Three years ago this May Gov. Rick Scott unveiled an initiative that he said would help citizens hold their government accountable.
Project Sunburst as it was called was described as a way to increase access to public records held by the Scott administration – while at the same time helping cut down on the number of record requests constantly flowing in for emails from both the governor and his staff.
When it started the initiative included the emails of Scott and members of his leadership team (although noticeably absent were the emails of his budget chief and general counsel.)
And when asked about other records, such as correspondence and letters written by Scott, then-Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara promised that would be added as well.
Let’s flash forward and see what’s there now.
Letters? That never really got going. All that is on is the site are 11 letters written in June 2012.
Ok, so what about emails?
Well, there are more folders associated with former employees than people working there now.
There are four deputy chiefs of staff reporting to Melissa Sellers, Scott’s chief of staff and campaign manager for his re-election. None of them have their emails included in Sunburst. Nor does Scott’s current cabinet affairs director – an area that has been the source of consternation in recent months since the forced dismissal of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Emails going into an account for Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera appear to have stopped going into Sunburst this past January.
There is still traffic in Sellers account – but it mainly consists of her schedule and emails she receives. She appears to have adopted the same policy as her predecessor and refrains from using her state account to send anything out.
Sunburst does still show Scott’s own email account although the great bulk of that account are emails received to his public account from citizens around the state. The site also does include the emails of Scott communications director Jackie Schutz although her account hasn’t been updated since May 7.
Another legal battle brewing over taxpayer-helped campaigns
Former State Rep. Perry Thurston lost his bid last year to become the state’s top legal affairs officer.
But Thurston is embarking on a legal challenge that could affect future statewide campaigns.
The unsuccessful Democratic candidate for attorney general and his attorney Mark Herron are asserting that the Department of State improperly denied his request last summer for matching funds.
To refresh everyone’s memory: Matching funds are taxpayer money that is made available to statewide candidates based on certain eligibility criteria. Those who meet the criteria receive an initial two-for-one match for contributions from Florida residents followed by additional distributions at a one for one match.
The Legislature tried to repeal the program but voters turned down a proposed amendment to get rid of the money.
Thurston asserts he cleared the thresholds needed to get the matching funds including raising at least $100,000.
But in its filing with the Florida Elections Commission attorneys who work for Secretary of State Ken Detzner maintain that the documentation submitted by Thurston in August 2014 put him at slightly more than $99,000 – or below the threshold. They contend that the Thurston campaign did not question the omission of other documentation until after he has lost the Democratic primary to George Sheldon and by then it was too late because he was no longer a candidate.
“If individuals were permitted to submit supplementary documentation to establish the $100,000 threshold for eligibility at any time, even after being eliminated as a candidate, there would be no limiting principle to achieve finality,” states the filing by then-department general counsel J. Andrew Atkinson.
Thurston appealed the finding to the commission but the panel last week voted against him.
Herron says his client plans to take the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal. He contends that this is an important case because the division used minor issues – the fact that a copy of the check was partially turned down and hid part of an address – to deny Thurston’s submission. If the division had counted these checks then Thurston would have been eligible. The October submission was merely resubmitting the same information with new copies of the checks.
The amount of money that Thurston could be eligible for if he wins the case would not be unsubstantial. The division itself acknowledges that if Thurston had been crossed the initial threshold he would have been entitled to roughly $75,000.
In its filing division attorneys assert it is pointless to pay the money now because under law it would have be returned to the state’s general revenue account. Herron disputes that as well.
Original article here.