Lawsuit alleges Gov., staff skirting Sunshine law

By Matt Galka, Reporter, Capitol News Service
Published On: Aug 15 2014 11:35:10 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Emails sent between state officials are supposed to be public record. But a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and the Attorney General alleges that Scott and his staff are conducting state business off the public grid.

The First Amendment Foundation said that if a judge rules that individual employees, and not the state, are responsible for their own public records, it could make it nearly impossible to complete a public records request.

“I think that one of the most important rights that the citizens of Florida have protected by the Florida constitution is the right to public records in any form,” attorney Steven R. Andrews said. “Private emails, cell phones, text messages, and we just want to make sure that state agencies properly respond.”

Andrews has produced at least two private email accounts -- gov.rls@gmail.com and eoffl@yahoo.com -- that he said are being used for state business but were not turned over to him in a public records request.

A judge has ordered that Google and Yahoo disclose who created the accounts.
Project Sunburst was launched in 2012. It was supposed to contain all emails between the Governor and his staff regarding matters of the state.

“This unprecedented step gives the citizens of Florida, as well as members of the media, an open and transparent window into how state government works,” Scott said in 2012.

Scott brushed the lawsuit off at an event Friday.

“Absolutely not, we follow the law,” Scott said. “This is just an individual that sues the state and tries to cause problems.”

The First Amendment Foundation weighed in on the case and called the allegations “troubling.”

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