Newspapers, Sunshine Advocates File Lawsuit Against Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet

Feb 4, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott during an event in Bonita Springs.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU

Newspaper editors and open records advocates are taking Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to court over the alleged ousting of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Chief Gerald Bailey.

Plaintiffs including the Associated Press, The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and Citizens for Sunshine filed the lawsuit in a circuit court in Tallahassee.

They believe state officials broke the state’s open meetings laws.

A St. Petersburg attorney is also a plaintiff. He recently asked a state attorney to conduct a third party investigation into whether high level staffing decisions were made out of the public eye.

Sarasota Attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen is spearheading the lawsuit.

"If [news organizations] can't get the information because it's done behind closed doors, then the entire culture will be unable to find out what's going on in our government." --Andrea Flynn Mogensen, Sarasota attorney

She said state laws are clear on when public meetings need to be conducted and residents have a right to know what their state government is up to.

“The majority of the clients are press organizations,” she said. “They are the bearers of the news. They deliver what there is to know to the people. And if they can’t get the information because it’s done behind closed doors, then the entire culture will be unable to find out what’s going on in our government. We have a right to know it’s a constitutional mandate and they need to follow it.”

Mogensen said a lawsuit is the only way to penalize a government body for violating these laws.

During an event in Bonita Springs, Scott said he’s confident he and his staff did not violate the state’s laws.

“I am sure my staff did the right things,” he said. Scott’s office said their counsel is currently reviewing the lawsuit.