It makes sense for the Pinellas County School District to finally eliminate its 26-member police force and let the sheriff do the work. But superintendent Mike Grego's effort to keep the idea secret and avoid promptly turning over public records backfired. The superintendent could use a refresher course on the public records law and the importance of openness.
School Board members were surprised to learn this week of a draft contract with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri that they had not been given. Grego had tried to keep the draft secret and offered only vague public references before the workshop. Blindsided board members killed the idea.
Grego evidently thinks things work best when his staff can bring a fully developed plan to a board workshop and start the public debate there. But that's not how it works. Under the state public records law and the Florida Constitution, the public has a right to all government records unless they are exempt from release by a specific state statute. It doesn't matter whether the records are drafts or finished products, or whether elected officials have seen them first.
The superintendent should commit himself to openness and stop keeping documents secret from the public and then springing them on the School Board. That violates at least the spirit of state law, suggests a lack of trust in the public and won't help win support from board members for his agenda.