A Leon County circuit judge Tuesday ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration did not comply with the state’s public-records law after an open-government group sought records about a controversial decision to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Judge J. Lee Marsh gave the administration 20 days to provide records sought by the Florida Center for Government Accountability. Marsh pointed, at least in part, to requested phone or text logs that could provide information about communications by DeSantis Chief of Staff James Uthmeier about the flights.
Marsh said the governor’s office did not show “any steps, direct steps taken to gather what this court finds are public records” related to state business conducted on personal devices.
Michael Barfield, director of public access for the center, said Marsh’s verbal ruling held the governor accountable for delays in providing public records.
“The public’s right of access was vindicated,” Barfield said. “The governor is not immune from
being held accountable.”
Before the ruling, Andrew King, an attorney for DeSantis, argued the administration was working to fulfill numerous records requests stemming from the migrant flights. He accused the center of “weaponizing” the public-records law to get ahead of other people or organizations seeking records.
“We’re diligently working to provide all of these Martha’s Vineyard records to all of the people who have asked,” King said.
But Marsh pushed back against the “weaponizing” argument.
“They’re just using the statute the Legislature passed,” Marsh said.
Andrea Flynn Mogensen, an attorney for the center, said the administration’s arguments about a backlog of requests is evidence of delay that violates the public-records-law.
“We’re being told, you’re in line, get in line and stay in line,” she said.
The center filed the lawsuit Oct. 10 and alleged that the governor’s office did not comply with requests made Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 after about 50 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, were flown from Texas to Massachusetts.
Part of the controversy centers on the DeSantis administration using Florida money to finance the two Sept. 14 flights, which started in San Antonio, stopped at an airport in the Northwest Florida community of Crestview and ended up in Martha’s Vineyard. The DeSantis administration tapped into $12 million that the Legislature provided to transport undocumented immigrants from Florida.
DeSantis, who is widely considered a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, regularly criticizes the Biden administration on border policy and the handling of undocumented immigrants. He also has been critical of so-called “sanctuary” communities, such as Martha’s Vineyard.
In addition to seeking phone or text logs from Uthmeier, the center sought records about such things as any communications with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office about relocating migrants. The DeSantis administration released some records, but the center said in the lawsuit that the release was not “responsive” to the requests.
King said during Tuesday’s hearing that the administration had a Dec. 1 “target date” to provide the requested records, but Mogensen called that “unreasonable.” The center also sought a shorter time frame than the 20 days that Marsh gave the administration.
Nicholas Meros, another DeSantis attorney, made a series of statements in court after Marsh’s ruling that could set the stage for an appeal. Mogensen indicated after the hearing that she expects an appeal.
The center also has filed a separate public-records lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation and Vertol Systems Company, Inc., which received a state contract to transport migrants. That lawsuit remains pending.
Also, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, has filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court, alleging the DeSantis administration violated the state Constitution and a separate law in its handling of the migrant flights.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing some asylum seekers flown to Massachusetts filed a potential class-action lawsuit in federal court against DeSantis, Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue and people who helped recruit the immigrants in Texas.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Dennis C Rathsam says
Nothing but a bunch of hippocrates…..Biden has been doing the same thing in the middle of the night. He has shipped invaders all over the USA. Now since republicans De Santis & Abbott did the same thing….all of a sudden the democrats are protesting. Do as I say….Not as I do. This is why there will be a RED sunami Nov 8!!!!!
Tony Mack says
As with most things you comment about — it’s often filled with hate, misinformation and just plain lies. For example..from NPR, June 20, 2022:
Ghost flights’ are the latest GOP effort to weaponize immigration ahead of midterms
Pretty much no different than what the last administration was doing if not exactly the same.
Red Sunami is right!
I was gonna reply – then I remembered …
“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it”.
George Bernard Shaw
Who am I to argue?
p.s. It’s ‘DeSantis’ not ‘De Santis’ – at least get your hero’s name right … sheesh
Been There says
The Biden Administration was transporting political asylum seekers that were legally vetted and going to their final destination in the U.S. Not the same thing.
DeSantis has violated Sunshine Law among a host of other laws (to be determined in court).
I saw on Fox News last night a PAC commercial “Ready for Ron to Run in 2024” was soliciting petition signatures. I guess his lack of response in the debate was indeed due to the fact that if he gets elected Governor he has no plan to stay in that office for the full term. I hope you’re good with his Lt. Governor taking his place.
Mondexian Mama says
It’s hypocrite and tsunami. No matter who wins, it’ll still be the SOS. Politics is the religion of the feebleminded.
Bill C says
It’s spelled “hypocrite”. As usual, you represent the voice of ignorance, relying on uninformed disinformation for your opinions.
Ben Hogarth says
November 8th is the election and DeSantis will not comply with record request fulfillment on a damning (and potentially incriminating) issue beforehand.
But we know how the GOP roles. “Laws for thee but not for me.” And no accountability in sight. This only inevitably leads down one path, and I’m afraid to think of what that will look like.
For all of us.
Not surprised. And can you believe it he went to law school and a Ivy League one at that. What is scary is he wants to be President.
Talk about unqualified to be a Governor of a State let alone the President of the US.
Mr. Arrogant puppet of Trump he doesn’t care, he does what he wants, he is a mini little man dictator.
I said in 2018 to everyone I know “you do not want this guy as your Governor” and I still stand by that.
Michael Cocchiola says
What did anyone expect? He’s an extremist Republican. They have no respect for the law, the Constitution, and the norms of our society. They do what it takes to hold power.
Real Republicans… fight back against extremism. Vote for moderate Charlie Crist.
You can do this!
Satan’s son. Examine the Governor’s scalp and locate the three-digit number of 666.
Where’s Gregory Peck when you need him?
Jack Howell says
So, whats going to happen? In a word, NOTHING.
Theatre is everything with this Trump wanna-be. Such a phony.
Watch: Poll shows DeSantis lost debate by huge margin after refusing to say he’ll serve full term if reelected
AlterNet – Yesterday 11:23 AM
He is not a Governor nor is he qualified to be President. He should also go back to law school because he obviously forgot what he was taught.
If the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions (which they were not) Governor DeSantis should have asked Crist why he left his current Congressional seat early to run for Governor…..
You mean, instead of staying on the taxpayers payroll while he was campaigning – Like Marco Rubio did for almost 2 years ?
I guess it’s just a matter of Class and Integrity … of which Rubio (and DeSantis) have none.
Republican politicians, and their buddies, are above the law. DeSantis doesn’t provide public records under the Sunshine Law. Trump declassifies top secret documents simply thinking about them and lies about returning them, Trump pardons Flynn after Flynn pleads guilty lying to congress, Trump commutes Stone’s, seven felonies after being found guilty by a jury of his peers, Graham doesn’t have to go to Georgia to testify thanks to being able to go straight to the Supreme Court and far right Justice Thomas. It goes on and on. I cannot vote for this. I just don’t have the connections this elected boys club has, do you? They are certainly not working for us.
Laurel your comment has it’s merits but don’t think for one moment it’s all one sided, both sides have corrupt members and have had since the beginning of politics. Every opportunity to politicize a event or a disaster happens for all parties. You are a strong democratic support, that’s evident in your prior posts but you cannot look anyone in the eye and honestly say that your political party that you support does not play the same politics.
freddy1: You assume a lot. No, I’m not a Democrat, I am NPA, and have been Independent all my voting life. I find Democrats annoying, as they are always shooting themselves in the foot and are bad at promoting their accomplishments. Yes, there are bad eggs on each side, but this time around, the Republican politicians are so egregiously, blatantly corrupt and cowardly, that I cannot let it pass.
In the past, when Nixon was caught with his tapes, it was the Republicans who told him to resign. Today, the Republicans pucker up to Trump’s ass so absurdly, and with fear, that it is shameful. When McCain did not vote the way Trump wanted him to, Trump started bad mouthing him with “I don’t like people who get caught,” berating prisoners of war. Bone spurs Trump with never, ever be the man Republican McCain, whom I admired greatly, was.
Republican Jeff Flake, a good man, tried to warn congress about Trump and Trump squashed him. I admire Liz Cheney for her strength and commitment to this country, even as it effected her position in congress, and though I don’t agree with her staunch conservatism. When anyone talks the truth about Trump, he viciously goes after them. Trump has gone after many upstanding Republicans and trashed their careers and their lives. This is unacceptable to me.
The current behavior of Republican politicians is obnoxious and they are willing to turn our country into a third world dictatorship, and as a Non Party Affiliate, I will not be quiet about it.
What Else Is New says
Folks, read Orwell’s 1984. We are living it.