Gov. Ron DeSantis will fight a ruling that he must turn over communications about flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
Leon Circuit Judge Lee Marsh last week ordered the DeSantis administration to provide all records to the Florida Center for Government Accountability. But filing a notice of appeal with the First District Court of Appeal triggers a 48-hour stay on the ruling, delaying the need to comply with a Nov. 14 deadline.
Already, the promise of any provided records need not be met before the Nov. 8 General Election, where DeSantis is running for re-election against Democrat Charlie Crist.
DeSantis on Sept. 14 chartered a plane with taxpayer dollars to fly more than 30 migrants, mostly Venezuelan refugees, from the Southwest border in Texas up to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Critics immediately decried the flight as a “shameful political stunt.”
Documents the administration has released show the state has paid $1.56 million to Destin-based Vertol Systems for that flight and possibly a second one to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware.
The Florida Center, led by public records advocate Michael Barfield, earlier this month argued in a lawsuit that all communication leading to the decision, including text messages and text and phone logs, should be public record.
Barfield called the appeal “puzzling.”
“Why does the Governor want to waste taxpayer’s money to avoid transparency?” Barfield said. “Public records belong to the public. The Governor is not above the law.”
Marsh agreed, writing in an order that state law “requires an agency to preserve all records responsive to a records request.”
The order also takes issue with information blacked out in documents provided by the state, and said the state provided no statutory explanation for redacting portions.
Attorneys for the state issued no reason for seeking its appeal.
DeSantis of note has in conservative press justified his use of a fund for the voluntary transport of migrants to sanctuary jurisdictions. Most recently, he said Martha’s Vineyard brought on the flights in their own advertising that refugees were welcome.