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Columbia County Observer

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Scott and His Senior Staff Have Operated in Secrecy For Too Long

It was recently revealed that Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s embattled Chief of Staff, frequently uses text messages to discuss state business, which is against official policy.

This continues an alarming pattern of the Scott administration acting behind closed doors and out of view of the public they are supposed to serve.

Now, Progress Florida has joined with good government watchdog groups around the country to shine a light on the secrecy prevalent in too many governors’ offices.

This is a first-of-its kind effort to shed a light on the actions of governors through a multi-state public transparency effort. From closed bridges in New Jersey, to illegal voter purges in Florida, Americans are tired of watching governor after governor misuse their public office for personal and political gain.

The Executive Accountability Project will seek to make public through the use of freedom of information requests state business-related conversations between governors and their top appointed staff. This new, much needed effort has launched in five states: Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The public has a right to know how elected officials like Scott, who serve at the behest of the people, are operating behind closed doors. This knowledge is particularly crucial considering recent court decisions gutting campaign finance laws, the growth of stealth corporate funded lobbying efforts and the normalization of a revolving door between elected office and private industry.

Combined, these developments have created an unprecedented level of corporate influence over public policy.

Even as the Executive Accountability Project is in its nascent stage, Scott and top state officials are facing a public records lawsuit that contends state officials are flouting Florida’s public records law.

Meanwhile, messages recently made public by veteran Florida reporter Gary Fineout detail how lobbyists and elected officials communicate with Scott’s top deputy via text message. Among the issues these text messages discussed were Scott’s lieutenant governor search, judicial appointments and issues being debated during the 2014 legislative session.

The culture of self-serving deal-making that grips many of our state capitals has operated essentially in secret, relying on tactics to avoid Government in the Sunshine laws and a lack of public attention. The Executive Accountability Project will focus on providing the public a never-before-seen look at the inner workings of how their elected officials are conducting “the people’s” business behind closed doors.

We’re fortunate in Florida that many members of the media have worked to change this toxic culture and ensure that officials operate in an open manner. This new accountability campaign is another much needed effort to shed greater sunlight on the often arcane and secretive inner workings of Florida’s executive branch of government.

It’s often said that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” That sunshine is needed now more than ever to help expose the egregious, unbridled access and influence that special interest lobbyists have in the Scott administration. 

Mark Ferrulo is the executive director of Progress Florida, a statewide progressive advocacy organization. This Op/Ed also appeared in CONTEXTFLORIDA

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