Ron DeSantis Is the Only Florida Governor to Keep Records Hidden, Experts Say

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By Giselle Balido

July 6, 2023

Government accountability watchdogs are pointing to the governor’s growing penchant for secrecy and his concerted efforts to keep information out of the public eye.

Government accountability watchdogs are scrutinizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ penchant for secrecy and his concerted efforts to stonewall the release of public records, as well as keep information out of the public eye. In fact, DeSantis is the only Florida governor known to use “executive privilege” to keep records hidden, transparency advocates say. 

RELATED: ‘Worse Than Trump’: Rep. Maxwell Frost Speaks Out About Ron DeSantis in a One-on-One Interview

Michael Barfield, director of public access for the Florida Center for Government Accountability (FLCGA) a nonprofit open government watchdog, says the amount of material that has been taken off the table in a state that many have considered to be the most transparent is “stunning.” 

Legal filing show that DeSantis: 

  • Keeps his travel records secret thanks to a new legal exemption created in 2023 by the Republican-led Legislature and approved by the governor. In the past, this information has helped identify taxpayer-funded travel abuses by state officials, government watchdogs say.
  • Keeps the list of visitors to the governor’s mansion under wraps. 
  • Withheld important Covid infection data during the height of the pandemic, which critics say violated the state’s records act.
  • Blocked the release of records about the relocation of dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Denied that any records exist related to Hurricane Ian, a mass-casualty natural disaster.
  • Withheld key information sought by media organizations that would show how often his administration denies requests for records, and how long it takes to disclose them.  

‘Just Look at the Actions’

Barbara Petersen, executive director of the FLCGA, has been tracking the state’s public access laws for three decades. The Sunshine State, she warns, “is in peril.” 

RELATED: What ‘Make America Florida’ Might Actually Mean

And not just Florida, DeSantis’ critics say. The governor’s run for the White House in 2024 has raised concerns among Democrats and moderate conservatives, about what DeSantis’ promise to “make America Florida” could mean for the country.

“He wants to silence the press, he wants to silence the people, and he is not working on actually helping working class folks,” Rep. Maxwell Frost told Floricua. “Look at what’s going on through a very objective lens. Put aside [party affiliation] and just look at the actions, and you’ll see someone who is very dangerous.” 

Florida Democrats have consistently called out DeSantis’ attacks on freedoms, from implementing bans that limit how schools teach about race, sexuality and gender identity, to establishing a six-week abortion ban and preempting local government authority. 

Some, like Congressman Frost and State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, have gone as far as calling DeSantis a “fascist” who is leading an authoritarian movement in the state and “abusing his power.” 

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Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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