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Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal

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Appeals court orders judge to review Rick Scott records

A state appeals court has overruled a Tallahassee trial judge who ordered Gov. Rick Scott to disclose details of his official and campaign schedules, ordering that judge to first review the material privately.

State law clearly requires such “in camera” scrutiny of the disputed material, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said Monday.

Judge Lori Rowe signed the opinion and wrote separately to stress that disclosure of some Scott’s travel plans might compromise his security.

She cited an affidavit signed by Darrick Walker, of Scott’s security detail, attesting that those details “could reveal surveillance techniques, procedures, and the identity of law enforcement officers, which would compromise the safety and security of the governor.”

“Compelled disclosure of these highly sensitive records not only compromises law enforcement information made exempt under the Public Records Act, it also compromises the statutory mandate of the security detail to provide for and maintain the security of the governor,” Rowe wrote.

Judges Harvey Jay III and Joseph Lewis Jr. concurred. The ruling sends the case back to Tallahassee Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who delivered his ruling Sept. 5.

Monday’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by AHF MCO of Florida Inc., an affiliate of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of five providers denied Medicaid contracts by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

The suit sought electronic and hard-copy calendar entries for all of Scott’s meetings, events, and appearances July 20-Oct. 31; documents and records concerning his travel plans and places he intended to reside; and a list of all campaign and fundraising events planned.

Rowe noted that Scott’s office has handed over similar records in the past, including the names of FDLE agents in his entourage.

However, in a footnote, Rowe said “the governor’s decision to release records on a schedule of his choosing does not waive his ability to assert the exemption (to disclose) prospectively.”

Compared to other Florida governors, Scott has held details of his daily schedule uncommonly close to the vest.

Asked whether the outcome represented a win or a loss, Ryan Andrews, the Tallahassee attorney representing the AHF, said: “In between. We disagree with the court’s ruling, especially since (the Executive Office of the Governor) entered no evidence into the record.”

He insisted the governor’s campaign schedule is a public record that Scott is legally obliged to turn over.

“The delay and refusal to produce the records further suggests there is something untoward in the records relating to AHF’s bid to provide AIDS related services and treatment in South Florida,” Andrews said via email.

“AHF deserves better than EOG withholding the records so that the release doesn’t adversely affect the governor’s Senate campaign. People’s lives and health are at stake.”

He didn’t rule out an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, but conceded that “it is more likely that the records will be produced more quickly from the trial court once an in camera review of the records is conducted … There will be numerous EOG employees who will likely be subpoenaed to that hearing to provide testimony.”

Scott is even withholding records of his past schedules, Andrews said. He issued a demand Oct. 5 for those documents.

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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