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Editorial: Florida’s next governor should embrace openness

Published: December 28, 2017 Updated: December 29, 2017 at 02:07 PM

The sun has set on Gov. Rick Scott’s Project Sunburst, which was supposed to make the governor’s emails publicly accessible but, like the rest of Scott’s record on transparency, fell short of what Floridians expect. The website was taken down this fall, Scott’s spokesman said, because outdated technology would have required an expensive upgrade.

When he announced it five years ago, Scott boasted that Project Sunburst was an "unprecedented step" into letting Floridians see his administration at work. But it only came about because his office had been so slow in fulfilling public records requests in the first place.

Scott long has been hostile to Florida’s robust tradition of open government. He is the first governor to use taxpayer money to settle Sunshine Law lawsuits, a dubious distinction. In one case, Scott and the Cabinet members were accused of violating open meetings laws by allowing staff to use back channels to oust a Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner with no public discussion or vote. In another, Scott was accused of skirting the public records law by setting up and using private email accounts to conduct public business. He initially fought both cases, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees that were ultimately footed by taxpayers.

Florida’s next governor should show more respect for government in the sunshine than Scott, whose failed gimmicks such as Project Sunburst could not conceal his dislike for conducting the public’s business in public.