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Politics

Crist: Sunshine Law is a priority

He wants public officials trained in open-records laws.

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published December 13, 2006


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TALLAHASSEE - Gov.-elect Charlie Crist on Tuesday announced the state's first Office of Open Government to ensure compliance with open-records laws and train public employees on the subject.

"Respecting the public trust that is bestowed on all of us who serve the people of Florida is a top priority for me and for my administration," Crist said in a statement.

Crist said Pat Gleason, an assistant attorney general who will become director of Cabinet affairs, will hold the dual position of special counsel for open government.

The first director of open government will be JoAnn Carrin, chief of communications under Crist in the Attorney General's Office.

Creation of the new unit follows an election campaign in which news executives and editorial writers in Florida voiced frustration with the sometimes slow pace of state agencies in providing public records and urged Crist to make it a higher priority.

News agencies routinely request many forms of records from government, such as cell phone bills, personnel files, travel vouchers and summaries of investigations.

E-mail has left a paper trail of much of the day-to-day communication in government.

The law exempts some information from public view, such as Social Security numbers or criminal intelligence information.

Florida has a long history of ensuring public access to government records, dating to passage of the first open-records law in 1909.

The Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. In 1990, voters amended the state Constitution to require open meetings by the Legislature.

In 2005, Crist received the First Amendment Foundation's annual Pete Weitzel Friend of the First Amendment Award for his work on open government.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or 850 224-7263.

[Last modified December 13, 2006, 05:43:06]


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