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'Alarming' delay in Sunshine Law training for Gov. Scott, Cabinet

A little more "sunshine" in state government is proving tough to accomplish.

It has been nearly six months since Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members agreed that they needed a refresher course in Florida's public records and open meeting laws. They agreed to do it by the end of the year at a public Cabinet meeting but the training has not been scheduled and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office calls the foot-dragging "alarming."

At a meeting of Cabinet aides this week, Putnam's Cabinet aide, Brooke McKnight, raised the issue.

"It's a little alarming when you look at the calendar and we are running out of dates," McKnight told her colleagues. "I thought it was important to bring it up today."

The extra training was one of many official responses to the uproar that followed the forced ouster of the former commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gerald Bailey, last December. Bailey's removal was orchestrated in secret through back-channel discussions among Cabinet aides with no public discussion or vote. Scott and the Cabinet agreed to the extra training two weeks after a coalition of Florida news outlets alleged in a lawsuit that the four officials broke the law. Both sides settled the suit in June and the elected officials acknowledged no wrongdoing but agreed to a number of open government reforms.

By custom, the governor's office controls the contents of Cabinet meeting agendas. Since Scott became governor, there have been fewer Cabinet meetings. Five more are scheduled for this year, but two of them are out of town: next Tuesday in St. Augustine, Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 10 in Palm Beach County and Dec. 8.

At a Cabinet meeting last March, Attorney General Pam Bondi said the additional hour of Sunshine training would be in addition to a standing requirement to watch a two-hour DVD every year. Bondi said assistant attorney general Pat Gleason, considered an authority on sunshine issues, would direct the refresher course for Florida's top elected statewide officials.

"We are ready at any time," Bondi announced at the March 10 Cabinet meeting.

Bondi's spokesman said this week that the training will be "scheduled and completed in the required time frame."