Today, the First Amendment Foundation sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi expressing "deep concerns" about the firing of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, and requesting that a prosecutor outside Tallahassee investigate possible violations of Florida's Sunshine Law.
The letter is below.
Note: (Brian Crowley is a member of the FAF's board of trustees).
Dear Attorney General Bondi:
As you know, the First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated for more than three decades to preserving the public’s right to know what its government is doing. At your invitation, I write to express the Foundation’s deep concerns about the transparency issues surrounding the firing of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey and the hiring of his replacement.
You have called for an outside investigation and expressed your own concern that this State’s Sunshine Laws might have been violated in the handling of the FDLE issues. The Foundation supports the appointment of an independent State Attorney from outside Leon County to investigate this matter, to consider whether criminal charges should be brought and to issue a written report with findings.
You recognize that there is no dispute that Cabinet meetings (outside of the clemency process) are subject to the open meeting requirements of the Florida Constitution and Chapter 286, Florida Statutes. See Art. I, §24 (b), Fla. Const.
The members of Florida’s Cabinet are long-time elected officials who are in their second terms as Cabinet members and have long understood their open meetings obligations. It has been reported that Mr. Bailey indicated that he was forced out by the Governor and told by then General Counsel Pete Antonacci that the lawyer had the “concurrence” of all three Cabinet members.
Obtaining board member concurrence through back channels operating out of the sunshine on a matter that would foreseeably come before the Cabinet is the essence of an open meetings violation. Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, 296 So.2d 473, 477 (Fla.1974).