Nikki Fried: Florida Man’s problem with transparency
Image via AP.

Like our state, our Cabinet is purple, and like our state, we deserve access to data and the truth.

Florida is one of the nation’s most unique states, for a wide variety of reasons. One of those is how we’re governed — we’re the only state with a Cabinet that constitutionally governs together over numerous state agencies.

The four officials on this bipartisan Cabinet each earned more than 4 million votes from Floridians. Together, we jointly oversee the state’s revenue, law enforcement, land acquisition, and restoration of voting and civil rights, among several other important responsibilities.

At all times, and particularly during a pandemic, Floridians expect their state leaders to govern together. But we can’t do that without all the facts.

Since we took office in 2019, there has been a tendency by Gov. Ron DeSantis to leave the Cabinet — and Floridians — in the dark. And since the COVID-19 outbreak, that tendency has become a disturbing pattern of deception and withholding critical information.

Time after time, we’ve seen the Governor’s office and his agencies refuse to answer questions or release cases, data, and other public information, until forced to by the media or public pressure.

Were it just one incident, it might be understandable. Government at every level is under pressure to help the citizens we serve during this crisis. But it’s been one issue after another on which this Governor has lacked transparency. The instances are as staggering as they are reckless.

First, this administration refused to release cases and deaths that stemmed from nursing homes. They also refused to name the facilities where COVID-19 was present, leaving the families of nursing home residents rightfully fearful for their loved ones. Only after pressure from outraged Floridians and threats of media lawsuits did they finally release this information.

Then, the same pattern emerged with prison data.

The Department of Corrections kept inmate deaths from COVID-19 a secret for nearly a week and refused to acknowledge the number of cases. Only until the media discovered deaths through medical examiners did they finally acquiesce to releasing information.

Then they came for the medical examiners.

In a stunning assault on transparency, medical examiners were told by the DeSantis administration not to release data on COVID-19 deaths, even though for nearly three decades they’ve been responsible for reporting deaths from natural disasters and diseases. This created disparities in the data on deaths of our residents and visitors that is simply inexcusable during a public health crisis — or at any other time.

Finally, we’ve now seen the forced resignation of a data scientist who claims she refused to “‘manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen’ the state.” Since then, we’ve all borne witness to the ugliest smear campaign in recent memory, against a state employee — an imperfect person, as are we all — personally orchestrated by the Governor’s office.

To date, Floridians have no explanation regarding the data she was ordered to remove — and it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get one.

Meanwhile, our duly-elected Cabinet hadn’t met for nearly four months until this week, and remains publicly uninformed on the data, information, and processes that have shaped our state’s response to COVID-19.

I’ve asked for regular Cabinet briefings on COVID-19 since March 2. I formally requested them on April 9. I’ve called the Governor personally to ask for updates. I’ve offered to share what we’re doing to support agriculture, currently the state’s largest economic driver. When excluded from the Governor’s reopening task force, I sent him a 10-page plan with 15 key recommendations for our $137 billion agriculture industry.

All of this was ignored by DeSantis.

It’s hard to trust a Governor that consistently fights not only the release of public records, but the obligation to govern alongside his fellow elected Cabinet members. It’s even harder when so much is at stake, and when the records are a matter of life and death.

We’ve all not faced anything close to this pandemic in our lifetimes. Mistakes will be made. But what’s happening now isn’t a mistake — it’s a deliberate attempt to hide information and silence critics. At a time when transparency is crucial for Floridians to make informed decisions on their health, we’re getting the opposite.

None of this is partisan. Like our state, our Cabinet is purple, and like our state, we deserve access to data and the truth.

As we continue battling this pandemic, here’s my advice to the Governor and his administration: start being open and honest with Floridians, stop fighting the release of public information, and start governing the way our Constitution requires — together.


Nikki Fried, a Democrat, is Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and is an independently elected member of the Florida Cabinet.

Guest Author


  • Nikki/Resign

    May 28, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    If Nikki Fried is in the dark, it is not because of Gov. DeSantis. This patently partisan politician, has never had the people of Florida’s best interests at heart. Her entire tenure, since her election, has been one of casting aspersions at the Governor and the President.
    She should resign, and instead of taking money from Florida taxpayers, should be working for the DNC.
    Do your job Nikki Fried, and stop your constant complaining.

    • Evelyn

      May 28, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Commissioner Fried has worked extremely hard for the benefit of this state’s residents, and you and other Republicans are merely trolling websites for Trump.

      Disinformation is not a winning political strategy. Florida will vote for Biden in November, the Democrats will regain the White House, and then we’ll have a President who believes in science AND safety. A President who isn’t a tool of Russia and who isn’t the most crooked White House occupant in history.

      After that, we’ll vote Desantis out in 2022, and replace him with Nikki Fried, a woman who not only knows the job, but does it.

      • Margaret Blustine

        May 28, 2020 at 7:02 pm santis executive order to open fla is trumps rigged phase open santis uses it to open fla to deadly results more daily. Here’s his trick on us. Cdc says no state safe to open without 14 days…consecutively declinin new cases daily. …de santis changed rigged forMula to read…if downward tracjectory..WITHIN 14 day period….can open. What he does del iberately to cause over 54000 and increasing is…Rigged open formula as him uses a previous day of 789 new cases as a..downward trajectory of 1 day!! Then next day 941.he schedules testing where how much so can control like the following. His executive phase 1 2 4 open order states this trick he uses daily. “positivity rate can be based on the tests done each day by percent”..this means he takes total tests done daily takes negative percent of tests and takes positive percent and glibly says that much lower percent number is total daily new positive cases. This is usually haft of accurate new daily cases.

        Read his executive open order. Trump changed 3 words that de santis uses deadly every day to manipulate the truth.make people feel safe when numbers are as bad as worst of majority days ever. Example. Posted numbers for 7 days from may 21 thru may 27 were 5251 new cases. Average 750 daily. 750 daily is That’s his rigged lower numbers and are way too high to open any phases. No ever 3 consecutive declining numbers. He has go up and down every 2 or 3 days use rigged downward trajectory “within”…trick.may 28 were 9795 hospitalizations. Increasing as cases are fast and high.accurate numbers are 1200 1490 etc.

        There were over 464 cases he reported memorial day.he closed all test sites monday. This was dr medical examiners number.
        De santis says flattened when at 700 to 900 his average rigged formula with lower 7 day numbers.this is unacceptable even at those numbers. He and other states using the rigged open formula which is hugely undercutting americas deaths and cases. How 3 changed words by trump and de santis in safe cdc opening guidelines is dooming fla and america. 3 words that deliberately sneakily changed to cause deadly opening across fla and america. 3 words to destroy fla and america. Look at flas horrific high cases 8th worse of 50 states and fast tracking to 2nd. That’s how he does transparency. Corrupt deadly manipulation writing such words to mislead rig and lie abt flas daily new cases.back checking data dept of health fla easy see what he changed and manipulates to unsafely open fla phase 1. 2. 3. 3 corrupt deadly word changes.

      • wonder woman

        May 30, 2020 at 11:02 am

        We will not be voting for pedo Biden.. and we are flat out sick of democrats and their evil policies. You do not speak for most Floridians, as we are not all brain washed zombies..

      • Walter H

        May 30, 2020 at 11:08 am

        Nikki Friend’s article is not about political parties. It is about the Govenors’ office lack of transparency with information that all of Florida’s Cabinet members and all citizens should have access to. I have been a Desantís supporter, but now regretting my past decision. And not because of this article, but because I have tried to stay informed. I my opinion, Dsantis began opening Florida too early. He did not adhere to the safety guidelines, resulting in unnecessary deaths, just like other states have done. She hits it correctly with this article.

    • wonder woman

      May 30, 2020 at 10:59 am

      No doubt! To not release Covid numbers until speaking factually is something even the CDC doesn’t do.. I’m glad DeSantis isn’t playing this game, Florida isn’t participating in fake “pandemics”.. a pandemic is where many ppl die, not .02% so tired of the media’s LIES!

  • ItsTimeforTruth

    May 28, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    Madam Secretary,

    Let us start with your first misstatement. The Florida Cabinet is not purple, it is extremely red and centered around fiscally conservative values, values that make this state one of the most desirable states to live in. Your seat on that cabinet is the ONLY Democrat seat. The unfortunate truth about that reality is that you have been since the first day you have sat on the cabinet you have been running for governor.

    That includes pasting your photo on all gas pumps as your first media campaign. Next, your war on the Second Amendment rights of Floridians in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to prevent or delaying the approval of carry permits.

    Politically, it is a wise move for you to run against the Governor, since the Democrats in this state have no state-wide office holder other than yourself. I can only hope that you do and your true colors and those colors of the Democrats are exposed to the scrutiny of the Florida voters. The color is not purple, the colors are the red and yellow of the Chinese flag. For that is the political path that you and the Federal Democrats have taken for America and Florida. I pray you fail miserably.

    • ItsTimeforTruth

      May 28, 2020 at 3:10 pm

      Nikki Fried, a Broward County attorney and Democratic candidate for Agricultural Secretary to replace term-limited Adam Putnam won by just 6,753 votes — a margin of 0.08.

      And now she’s going to lecture Floridians on how we must be more progressively liberal than fiscally conservative. Not buying this Broward Attorney’s spin.

      • drock

        May 28, 2020 at 4:05 pm

        Scott and Desantis did not exactly win in a landslide either.

      • Aaron Perez

        May 28, 2020 at 4:35 pm

        Both Scott and Desantis won their seats by similar percentages, so what’s your point?

        Gov. Desantis is not fooling Floridians; he’s woefully inept as a governor and that’s now clear to people across this state.

        I wish we could vote Nikki Fried into the governor’s office today.

    • drock

      May 28, 2020 at 4:07 pm

      Years of Adam on the gas pump did not push him over the line. If only his face was there gotcha.

    • Fred K.

      May 28, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      Why don’t we instead start with YOUR first misstatement? Ms. Fried is a COMMISSIONER, not a secretary dear.

      The Florida Cabinet is red thanks to widespread voter suppression. The federal courts have labeled Desantis’ and his Republican co-conspirators in the Florida Legislature’s efforts to stifle the votes of ex-felons a ‘sham’, ‘a poll tax’, and several other derogatory terms, including labeling their policies a violation of the United States Constitution. That’s nothing to be proud of.

      And voter suppression is not a solid long-term political strategy when MORE THAN 65% of the voting public thinks you’re wrong on voting rights.

      I’m a gun owner and a veteran and I have absolutely no issue at all with the regulation of the gun industry, and/or restrictions to gun access. Most Americans agree that there have been too many massacres in the nation’s industry to ignore such a dangerous problem. Commissioner Fried understands the pitfalls that unregulated access to guns poses to the public.

      I concur with your comment about the Commissioner running against Desantis because he’s done such a lousy job. She’s obviously more intelligent than he is, and a lot better at doing her job. She has my vote.

      This nonsensical China absurdity is not going to earn Republicans any votes at all. And not merely because voters know the NRA and the Republican Party as a whole is a tool of Russia; rather, mst voters remember Trump raving about what a wonderful president China’s dictator is.

      The 2020 election and the 2022 election will be about leading Florida and America in the right direction. I’ll be happy to cast my ballot for Fried in 2022.

    • Simon

      May 29, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      I am also a veteran and gun enthusiest but I do not agree everybody with a pulse should own a gun and certainly none with substatial fire power. So what if Commissioner Fried is planning a run for Govenor and trying to rack up points, do you think Desantis is not? Stop suppressing the vote and lets see if we can turn FLorida Blue then.

  • Red to Blue

    May 28, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you, Commissioner Fried. Please
    keep speaking truth to power and calling out the mini-tRump governor for his utter lack of transparency and concern for Floridians.

  • Ron

    May 28, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    The Agriculture Commission should stick of her areas of responsibility: tomatoes and cows.

  • Bill In Palatka

    May 28, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you Commissioner (AND future Governor) Fried.

    The current governor has failed Floridians with his galling lack of transparency. Withholding information from the public is merely a continuing byproduct of a governor and Republican-dominated Cabinet that are intentionally keeping Floridians in the dark during the most precarious health crisis of our lifetimes. We don’t know what to believe anymore.

    By the way, we’ll never know how many lives were placed at risk or lost because of that irrational beach opening decision.

    In a time of pandemic, we need transparency, we need accurate information, we need truthfulness from our officials and above all else, we need and deserve responsible leadership. Desantis has shown a clear unwillingness to deliver on any of those.

    Instead, he has shown a propensity for carrying water for a very inept President. Indeed, Desantis clearly prioritizes pleasing Trump over ensuring the safety of this state’s citizens.

    Unlike the aloof governor, Commissioner Fried, you have shown time and again that you are truly a champion of the people. And We Thank You!

  • Rmartin

    May 29, 2020 at 9:00 am

    It’s terrible shameful and downright unfair unjust to let this go on any longer, People s LIVES are at stake, mine included his too, the difference is he gets his covid19 test everyday and WE don’t?OpEn all the BARS,GyMs, Theaters,theme parks Mr Desantis and Trump know it’s not working because with a State that can’t even get unemployment to unemployed ,senator Rick Scott deserves some of the blame for the unemployment disater because he changed the site that isnt working We the people deserve better,what’s the plan for hurricanes that’s going to hit out state???????????????????

    • Tom in Venice

      May 30, 2020 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you, Nikki Fried, for calling out the truth. It’s time for FL voters to stop seeing through red glasses or blue glasses. Doing what’s right with integrity and transparency is what we need in our leadership. Any of us should have the right to call our leaders to the mat on poor decisions – Commissioner of Ag and constituents alike. This is America after all, keep calling them as you see them, Nikki.

      I rather liked Ron DeSantis until we saw zero nursing home information being released and this data issue came up. Now I’m seeing the traits of a typical politician – I know best and will lead the sheep to where they belong. I hope that he sees the error in leading like this and lives up to his potential as the people’s leader.

Comments are closed.


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