By MichaelMH Published Dec. 02, 2022
In the latest development of the DeSantis administration's controversial handling of migrant relocation from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, a public records watchdog has asked a Tallahassee judge to charge the administration with contempt of court. The Florida Center for Government Accountability has accused the state of violating Florida's Public Records Act after the judge ordered the turnover of text messages, call logs, and other communications related to the migrant flights. DeSantis' chief of staff James Uthmeier is at the center of the controversy.
This is just one in a string of legal challenges facing the DeSantis administration over its use of $1.56 million in taxpayer funds. With public pressure mounting, it remains to be seen how much longer the DeSantis administration can keep playing coy with these records.
The Florida Public Records Act is a series of laws that guarantees public access to government records. The act dictates that all state, county, and local governmental agencies must make their records available to the public, with few exceptions.
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The exemptions to this rule are typically classified as information that would endanger someone's life or safety, trade secrets, or information that is part of an ongoing investigation (new federal ruling allows a special master to review ongoing investigation files). However, none of these exemptions seem to apply to the DeSantis administration's withholding of information about its handling of migrants from Texas.
This lawsuit accuses the DeSantis administration of violating a direct court order to release records pertaining to its handling of migrants from Texas. If found guilty of contempt, the consequences could range from a fine to jail time for those involved. This type of legal action is rarely taken against a sitting governor, which makes this case all the more significant.
A hearing has been scheduled for December 3rd, at which time Judge Marsh will hear arguments from both sides before making his decision. In the meantime, it seems likely that more information about this migrant relocation saga will come to light, whether the DeSantis administration likes it or not.
This development in the DeSantis migrant relocation saga is sure to add fuel to the fire for his critics. Accused of violating Florida's Public Records Act, the DeSantis administration now faces potential contempt charges from a Tallahassee judge. This hearing could have major implications for not only this case but also for future cases involving public records access in Florida. Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.