Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Open and shut case on releasing records

Perhaps Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner needs a refresher course on his job duties. His department is the central repository for state government documents, and as such the secretary should know chapter and verse of the state's open records law. But Detzner, who also oversees the division of elections, is refusing repeated requests to release a secret list of 180,000 voters whose citizenship his office believes might be in question. In Florida, voters long ago decided public officials don't have the option of cloaking public documents just to avoid scrutiny.

Detzner's refusal comes after the much-publicized voter purge effort, using a smaller but heavily flawed list of 2,625 suspected noncitizens, led to lawsuits and national embarrassment. Detzner claims he just wants to avoid needlessly exposing those on the larger list, which the division suspects has more errors. Left unsaid, of course, is that it likely behooves Detzner's boss, Gov. Rick Scott, to keep the list under wraps.

But that's not enough. Under Florida law, Detzner needs to cite the public records exemption he is utilizing to keep the information secret. He hasn't done so. Instead, he's apparently trying to buy time, asking Attorney General Pam Bondi for an advisory opinion on releasing the records.

Bondi, as the state's chief law enforcement officer, should not aid and abet this misdirect. The attorney general should hand the state's chief archivist a copy of Florida's public records laws and Detzner should take the time to read it.

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