Scott gets government advice out of the Sunshineby Dara Kam | December 22nd, 2010
Gov.-elect Rick Scott is meeting for the third and final day with his transition teams to get advice on how to revamp Florida government when he takes office on Jan. 4.
Although Scott set up a website for citizens to give him their suggestions for change, the meetings in downtown Fort Lauderdale are off-limits to the press and the public. One of Scott’s staff even advised transition team members in an e-mail message that they were not allowed to bring anyone with them inside the (public) building.
The Economic Development Team met at 9 a.m. today on the 12th floor of the Florida Atlantic University-Broward College Higher Education Complex.
A reporter was told the meeting was closed to the press, that the 12th floor was a “secure area,” and he was advised to wait in the lobby if he wanted to catch participants coming out of the meeting.
It seems there’s a gray area about whether the meetings are subject to the state’s broad Sunshine Laws requiring most government meetings to be open to the public.
Scott’s staff insists the meetings fall under the “fact-finding” and “information-gathering” exemption in the laws.
But First Amendment Foundation Director Jim Rhea contends that, because Scott is getting specific recommendations for possible legislation or other action, the meetings should be open.
“In my mind, that’s more like your typical advisory entity that would be subject to sunshine as opposed to just gathering facts and saying, ‘Here’s the facts,’ ” Rhea said.
But because there is no case law specifically dealing with state office-holders’ transition team meetings, Rhea said, “in the absence of a lawsuit you end up with a weaker position.”
As far as prohibiting individuals from entering the building, Rhea said: “These are public buildings. Anyone can come into a public building as long as they make it through the metal detectors.”