Monday, May 21, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Government on a need-to-know basis

Surely there must be an underling, an apparatchik, perhaps a factotum or two within the Get Smart labyrinth of Rick Scott's inner sanctum who could gently remind him he is the governor of Florida and not the high commissar of SMERSH.

At the rate the Scott politburo is operating in secret, the state motto ought to be: "The Kumquat Barks at Midnight."

It should have been a tipoff early on that Scott's reign would look like the Skull and Bones society meets The Da Vinci Code when the governor proudly announced he intended his administration to be an unprecedented "transparent window into how state government works."

And how does it work? Good luck trying to find out. For no sooner had Scott promised to be more open than a Kardashian than the governor started hiding his travel itineraries, leaving gaping holes in his schedule and treating public records that should be accessible to anyone who wants to see them as if they were the Manhattan Project files.

Scott created something called Sunburst, which was supposed to be a comprehensive collection of all electronic communication among the governor, his staff and others in contact with his office.

Instead, the system might be better labeled Sunbust, as Floridians are reduced to seeing information about as revealing as first lady Ann Scott reminding her husband, "Dearest Love Muffin, don't forget to pick up the kale on the way home from having your cranial hard drive oiled at Jiffy Lube."

Instead the Scott administration, which has become a sort of Scientology of bureaucrats, has apparently relied on private email and cellphone accounts to communicate, leaving behind a sparse trail of sneers regarding respecting the public's right to know.

Are there certain facets to running the state that might well be justified keeping mum about? Probably. But they ought to be extremely rare.

Yet this is a governor who seems to believe almost every aspect of his administration is a top secret/for your eyes only/loose lips sink ships classified matter of state. Do you suppose Scott's Florida Department of Law Enforcement code name is "M"?

One oddity about the Greta Garbo of the Apalachee Parkway uncovered by Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reporter Mary Ellen Klas are messages sent to Scott's private Gmail account from the governor's former chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, shilling for state Sen. John Thrasher to be chosen as lieutenant governor. Shouldn't the public have a right to know about the political jockeying to fill a do-nothing office with fewer job responsibilities than the state's snowplow fleet?

But Scott, who has become more adept at evasion than an Irish setter confronted with an accident on the kitchen floor, insisted he only uses his private email to "primarily communicate with my family." Who knew Scott had adopted the 61-year-old Steve MacNamara?

Much of the debate over Scott's aversion to the state's open government laws stems from a long-simmering lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Steve Andrews, who has repeatedly taken the governor to court to gain access to emails, text messages and other public records.

Andrews has been dismissed by Scott as merely "an individual that sues the state, tries to cause problems."

However, Andrews would be a lot less problematic if Scott fulfilled his promise to make the inner workings of his administration the "unprecedented, transparent window into how government works" instead of a Tallahassee Freemason Lodge.

It shouldn't rise to the level of planning a SEAL Team 6 raid to hide the names of who has scheduled meetings with the governor, including meetings involving members of Scott's staff.

Is it little wonder then that problem-makers like Andrews begin to think if the governor wants to conceal a meeting with Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, what else might the state's chief executive officer be hiding?

If the governor's recent trip to hunt at the tony King Ranch in Texas as the guest of sugar industry chaperones was so benign, why didn't Scott disclose the trip on his precious Sunboondoggle website?

What better public service for the body politic to see "how state government works"?

The Rick Scott administration, which has become a sort of Scientology of bureaucrats, has apparently relied on private email and cellphone accounts to communicate.

Comments
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18