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Washington Post lawsuit challenges Florida law protecting DeSantis travel records

The media organization first sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency that maintains DeSantis’ travel records, over the summer after denying the Post four separate public records requests. Florida Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey ordered FDLE to turn over all “non-exempt public records” following a court hearing in September, but the agency said some records were exempt due to the new law.

At the end of October, the Post’s lawyers filed a 25-page motion asking Dempsey to order law enforcement to turn over additional records, saying the travel records exemption was too broad and unconstitutional. In 1992, Florida voters passed a “Sunshine Amendment” that guaranteed public access to government documents and public meetings.

“The exemption erases from public view all records relating in any way to the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars each year, including the most basic information necessary to inform the public about why these services are intended, when they were provided, who received them and why,” states the motion filed by the Post’s attorneys. “The Florida Constitution prohibits such a disconnect between the narrow justification for an exemption and its broad scope. »

Dempsey, who earlier this year sided with DeSantis administration lawyers and ruled that the governor could withhold records under a never-before-applied doctrine of “executive privilege,” is expected to consider the request. Post during a hearing in January.

A Post spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation. POLITICO is calling on the same law firm representing The Post — Ballard Spahr — to raise questions about FDLE’s continued delay in complying with public records requests made by POLITICO.

DeSantis’ travels, including his use of state planes acquired after he became governor as well as his reliance on private planes chartered or owned by GOP donors, have been the subject of criticism. ‘scrutiny, particularly after the start of his presidential campaign.

POLITICO previously raised questions about flights he took while on a promotional tour for a book shortly before his campaign officially began. The Washington Post reported in September on undisclosed thefts made by DeSantis between his 2018 election and his inauguration, while POLITICO reported last month that Florida’s former economic development agency paid nearly $1.6 million dollars for an international trade mission. Most of the money was spent on two chartered planes that took the governor, along with first lady Casey DeSantis and other state officials and business leaders, to stops in Japan, South Korea, Israel and England.

The Post says that in April of this year – before the new law took effect – the news organization requested from the FDLE all documents related to DeSantis’ plane travel dating back to January 2019. After the initial court order requiring the state to turn over certain records, the Post’s legal filing says FDLE discussed what it would turn over and provided examples of travel records in its possession, including memoranda regarding reimbursements paid by DeSantis’ re-election campaign for use of the state plane.

But FDLE did not turn over all of those records and instead gave The Post copies of FDLE’s annual reports that track the agency’s overall spending on security and transportation. In the court filing, the Post’s lawyers argued that the agency decided to “renege on the parties’ agreement.”

The Post’s legal challenge also contends that the FDLE failed to turn over all documents related to a request to review FDLE emails regarding the Tampa Convention Center, which was the site of DeSantis’ 2022 election night party. The Post was looking for emails related to efforts to ban concealed weapons at the Convention Center.


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