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Editorial: Court gives DeSantis a limited go-ahead to sneak around in secret

A Florida appeals court sidestepped Gov. Ron DeSantis’ preposterous claim to have an “executive privilege” to flout public records and open-meetings laws  — but it didn’t go far enough. The ruling leaves state government in more shadow and less sunshine than before.

On balance, First District Court of Appeal handed DeSantis a win. He didn’t get the blanket approval he wanted to use executive privilege (a concept that exists nowhere in Florida law) as an excuse to refuse to share his secrets with citizens.

The court’s refusal to rule on the point leaves him free to raise it again whenever he’s sued to make him obey the law. Sooner or later, a higher court may put him in his place. Until then a court has handed him a free ticket to delay, delay and delay.

What’s DeSantis hiding? We still don’t know.

The worst part of this ruling was the court’s finding that J. Doe, the anonymous plaintiff who sued to find out who secretly advises DeSantis on Supreme Court appointments, did not make the original public records request specific enough.

“What I’m more concerned about is the ruling on specificity,” said Michael Barfield of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, in an email to the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. “Never before has a Florida court applied a specificity requirement to the Public Records Act. That will have much broader implications for requesters. It will also allow an agency to dither about what a requester is seeking and lead to increased fees assessed by an agency.”

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