Did Bondi violate sunshine law in selecting lawyer to defend sunshine law case?
"Rick Scott and Cabinet members Tuesday hired a law firm to represent them — an action that in itself should have been handled more openly, some lawyers said."
In a nine-minute meeting, the four statewide officials voted to spend up to $50,000 of tax dollars with the Tallahassee law firm Shutts & Bowen and attorney Daniel Nordby, who also represents the Republican Party of Florida."Lawyer’s hiring by Cabinet in Sunshine Law case raises new openness questions."
Nordby will represent the Cabinet, the fifth named defendant in a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen Florida news outlets following the forced ouster of a top state law enforcement official. He was recommended by Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Cabinet member who collected applications from five firms and settled on Nordby after consulting with her staff.
“Proposals were collected and posted online for the public and Cabinet to review, and the Governor and Cabinet made the decision to hire the counsel in an open and public meeting,” said Pat Gleason, special counsel to Bondi’s office and an expert in Sunshine Law, in a statement. “Furthermore the Attorney General’s review of the proposals was consistent with all applicable case law and attorney general opinions.”
Open government experts and legal opinions by prior state attorneys general say that when a collegial body subject to the Sunshine Law such as the Cabinet delegates decision-making authority to a single member, that process itself must be done publicly.
Bondi said she reviewed law firms’ applications with her staff before deciding on a recommendation. Her staff said no violation occurred because Bondi recommended Nordby on her own.
“My office lawyers know this work. They know it well,” she said in the Cabinet meeting. “They’ve reviewed with me the submissions we’ve received because this is what they do.”
Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, an open government watchdog group, said Tuesday’s action underscores a weakness in Florida’s Sunshine Law.<.P She said it’s a mystery whether Bondi acted alone in recommending Nordby, which would be legal, or relied on her staff’s input, which should have been done publicly.
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Stop the madness
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Jacksonville’s been on Scott’s mind:
On Monday, he endorsed former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry who faces Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the second run of the Jacksonville mayoral election next month. Brown, a Democrat, has stressed he has worked well with Scott and the governor did not go after the Jacksonville mayor in his endorsement on Monday."Unlike Scott and Curry, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux took off the gloves on Monday."
“Lenny Curry is a principled conservative who is committed to job growth and has what it takes to lead Jacksonville toward a prosperous future," Scott said. "I support Lenny Curry as Jacksonville’s next mayor.”
“Rick Scott has made Florida the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Curry said. “I’m proud to have worked side-by-side with him for his re-election, and humbled to have the governor endorse my vision to restore Jacksonville’s greatness.”
“It’s no surprise that Rick Scott would endorse his former party boss Lenny Curry who fought so strongly to defend the governor’s voter purge that sought to disenfranchise Florida’s minority voters,” Arceneaux said. “Time and time again, Curry has shown that he’s just the kind of person that Scott likes to surround himself with -- a career political hack who prioritizes partisan politics over doing what’s right for the people of Florida. Lenny Curry and Rick Scott’s backroom dealings and assaults on Florida’s Constitution represent everything that the residents of Jacksonville hate about Tallahassee’s broken politics.”"Scott Turns His Focus to Jacksonville on Jobs and Mayoral Race."
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