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Florida government transparency faces new challenges, Gov. DeSantis administration accused of hiding travel records


Florida – Former officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) have come forward with allegations against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration. The controversy centers around the suppression of public records detailing the governor’s state-funded plane travel and alleged retaliation against state police employees who contested this decision.

Transparency Under Scrutiny

Shane Desguin, the former Chief of Staff at FDLE, provided a sworn statement indicating that DeSantis’ aides halted the release of approximately 600 records. These documents would have illuminated details of the governor’s travels on the state plane, including his companions and destinations. The FDLE initially denied the records’ release, citing a new state law designed to protect the governor’s travel information. However, Desguin contends that this interpretation was incorrect, asserting that the legislation was meant only to guard against information that could endanger the governor or his family.

According to Desguin, the FDLE had assessed that the withheld records posed no threat to Gov. DeSantis, his family, or any related parties. Despite this, when Desguin and others voiced their objections to the decision to withhold information, they allegedly faced professional repercussions. Desguin claims he was coerced into resigning, while another official was demoted and another placed on leave for their dissent.

The Washington Post, which is currently suing to access the travel records, first reported these statements. Florida’s traditionally broad public records law contrasts sharply with the DeSantis administration’s approach, as journalists and advocates for open government have reported significant delays and obstacles in obtaining public records since DeSantis took office in 2019.

This situation has escalated concerns about the independence of the FDLE, an agency that, while responsible for executing the governor’s key initiatives, is supposed to maintain a degree of autonomy. Desguin’s statement reflects on the unprecedented level of involvement by the governor’s office in the FDLE’s personnel decisions, suggesting a shift towards treating the FDLE more as an extension of the governor’s office rather than a cabinet agency.

The governor’s office has referred to its court filings for comments and is seeking to dismiss the ongoing case. Meanwhile, the revelations from Desguin and others have highlighted the tension between the need for transparency in government operations and the administration’s efforts to control the flow of information. This episode serves as a critical examination of the balance between security, privacy, and the public’s right to know, raising questions about the broader implications for governance and public trust in Florida.

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