A lawsuit filed by news media outlets in Florida against Governor Rick Scott and three cabinet members over alleged violations of the state’s Sunshine Law headed to mediation in an attempt to find an agreeable settlement without having to resort to the courts.
The mediation was a move to postpone a deposition of the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Gerald Bailey. Bailey’s dismissal, discussed and ordered in secret, prompted the lawsuit in the first place, as media agencies complained that such moves should be done in public, with the public having access to the reasoning and statements made.
The news agencies finally agreed to mediation after the State had delayed the deposition of Bailey several times, as well as making several attempts to limit the scope of the deposition. The expectation is that if Bailey is placed under oath, he will allege political interference from the Governor’s office.
The news agencies are expected to hold to their list of demands while engaging in the mediation. They have been seeking
- A change in policy requiring that state officials post emails and text messages to the Project Sunburst website established by the state’s Sunshine Law within 24 hours.
- Reversal of the decision to appoint Rick Swearingen the new Commissioner of the FDLE.
- A prohibition on state officials using personal email accounts for state business.
- A process of selecting and appointing commissioners and other state officials that is more open and transparent.
The mediation process will be confidential, but many representatives of the involved news agencies intend to attend.