Friday, April 17, 2015

Media Prompts Sunshine Law Mediation

Florida's Governor and cabinet members will mediate their differences next week in Tallahassee with more than a dozen news outlets in a lawsuit accusing officials of violating Florida's Sunshine Law. The mediation postpones a scheduled videotaped deposition of the recently ousted commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The sudden dismissal triggered the lawsuit, leading to a series of reforms designed to improve cabinet oversight of state agencies. Former FDLE Commissioner, Gerald Bailey, will likely repeat allegations of political interference by gubernatorial campaign staff and state officials who secretly arranged his ouster. Reportedly, news outlets will seek that high-level state officials post all text messages and emails on the state-run "Project Sunburst" website and to permanently prohibit state officials from using private email accounts to conduct public business. Media editors plan to attend the ironically confidential mediation session in the case on April 22, 2015. A former Florida Supreme Court justice has been brought in to mediate the lawsuit. Additional items up for negotiation are the adoption of policies to keep cabinet proceedings covered by the Sunshine Law, including a return to the recording and broadcasting aides' meetings. The parties will also discuss a prohibition on using liaisons or conduits to communicate about any official business. Finally, the suit seeks to void the appointment of Rick Swearingen, current head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and to conduct a full and open process to appoint a permanent leader. Discussions are to include the formation of an Open Government Commission, similar to the Ethics Commission, with the power to investigate alleged Sunshine Law violations. As Justice Brandeis once quipped, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." Read more here-- and and see