Florida has strong laws about giving the public access to public records. A taxpayer recently sued to find out who was advising Governor DeSantis when he selected judicial nominees. DeSantis argued that this information was a matter of executive privilege and was not covered by the state’s open records law. A judge agreed. The Miami Herald was outraged. They sense, as do I, that DeSantis not an ordinary Governor. He wants to be in total control of the state. He wants to do what he wants to do. He doesn’t tolerate dissent. He gives off the smell of a fascist. Since he seems to be a front runner to beat Trump, I watch him closely. Everyone should.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has opened yet another front in his endless war to remake Florida in his image. This time, it’s an attack on the public’s right to know and a claim of “executive privilege” that could result in a new level of unfettered power for the governor.

The latest effort to control our state goes to the heart of what government is supposed to do: Represent the people. Governors are not kings. They cannot do whatever they like. Their work is our work. Their records are our records.

We paid for them with our taxes — just like we pay for all the work that is done in Tallahassee, work done in our name and to which we should have almost complete access, except for rare situations in which the government can prove the reason for a (narrow) exception.

But now we have a ruling in a lawsuit, John Doe v. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Executive Office of the Governor, that runs counter to all of those well-defined concepts of government-by-the-people.

As the Miami Herald reported, an anonymous person filed suit last year asking for documents showing any communication between the governor’s office and “six or seven pretty big legal conservative heavyweights” that DeSantis revealed on a podcast that he’d consulted when making judicial picks for the Florida Supreme Court.

DeSantis’ legal team (which we are no doubt paying for) argued in court that he shouldn’t have to hand over the documents because such things should be kept secret.

The governor needs to be able to talk to anyone and everyone in private if it helps him make good decisions for the rest of us, or so the argument went. In other words, just trust DeSantis, voters. He knows best. Now run along outside and play.

DeSantis is claiming that he does not have to reveal the names of what may amount to a shadow Cabinet because he has executive privilege, a hazy concept even on a federal level, though many presidents have tried to assert it.

Perhaps Florida’s governor has gotten confused about which job he has, amid the talk of a 2024 presidential run.

But the fact remains: No such thing was ever agreed on by voters in this state. Executive privilege is not in the state Constitution or statutes; DeSantis’ lawyers just want it to be so. They want it so badly they’ve tried it in other cases. This time, though, the judge bought it.


In a Jan. 3 ruling, Leon County Circuit Judge Angela C. Dempsey said the governor does indeed have executive privilege and therefore John Doe — and the rest of us — aren’t entitled to see what he does behind closed doors. How does he select judicial nominees? None of your business, you annoying voters. (We’ll be over here cashing your checks, though.)…

And while executive privilege isn’t in the Florida Constitution, public records laws are. Florida voters in 1992 amended the Constitution to include open records and open meeting laws.

Only the Legislature can make exceptions. Take a look at Article 1, Section 249(c) of the Constitution if you want to read it for yourself. The exceptions must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

And any exception must overcome high hurdles including that it be a “public necessity” and narrowly tailored to fit only the specific bit of information to be kept secret.

It’s not supposed to be used just because the governor doesn’t want people to know the identities of his secret advisers.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article271924982.html#storylink=cpy