ClickOrlando.com by Mike DeForest
The office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has “consistently sought to safeguard” Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine open meeting and public record laws, according to Moody’s own website.
But when it comes to Governor Ron DeSantis delaying the release of certain public records requested from state agencies like the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Health – sometimes for months — while his staff conducts a secondary review of the documents, Florida’s most powerful attorney is reluctant to share her thoughts.
“I just couldn’t comment to that,” Moody said in response to questions from News 6 about the governor’s practice.
News 6 recently uncovered internal records from DeSantis’s office revealing how the governor’s legal team occasionally adds weeks or months of delays to the release of public records from state agencies requested by citizens and journalists.
State law does not require government agencies to produce public records within a specific time frame.
However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that the “only delay” permitted in producing public records is the time it takes for a record custodian to retrieve the record and delete any exempt, non-public information.
“In accordance with the Governor’s duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, the Executive Office of the Governor may review the record to ensure the accuracy and correctness of the record production,” a DeSantis spokesperson told News 6 last year.
The governor’s office claims DeSantis has the authority to review public records compiled by subordinate state agencies if the governor “may have an equity” in the record “because the record includes communications with the Executive Office of the Governor, because the record concerns the Governor, or because there is reason to believe that the Governor may be asked about information in the record.”
“I think it’s illegal. Flat out illegal,” said Michael Barfield, the director of public access at the Florida Center for Government Accountability, a watchdog organization that advocates for transparent government.