TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Rick Scott's staff is having trouble again with his emails _ or at least knowing where they are. Less than three months after announcing a program to post online the governor's emails and those of his staff, it turns out only staff emails were available.
Scott's emails were in a separate account. The Miami Herald first reported the issue.
Scott announced a program he called “Project Sunburst'' in early May that would allow access to his emails within 24 hours of the time they were written. The idea was to give citizens an open and transparent window into the workings of state government.
When Scott announced Project Sunburst, he noted that some emails might not be put on the website immediately although most would be available within a week. Scott also said some would have to be reviewed to ensure the information was not exempt to public disclosure.
"Providing access to only some of the governor's emails – the positive emails sent to an email address not generally available to the public at large _ is not transparency, it is, at the very least, misinformation, and underscores the need for strong public access laws,'' First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said Tuesday.
“We need to see Florida officials serious about transparency with their emails,'' said Dan Krassner, executive director of the ethics research and advocacy group Integrity Florida. “We're either going to see transparency fully embraced by Project Sunburst or continuation of what has essentially been a propaganda machine.''
The governor remains on vacation “out west'' and his office did not immediately respond Tuesday for comment on the latest email controversy.
Krassner suggested that Scott adopt a real-time, searchable system similar to one in Alachua County where all emails are automatically included and immediately available to the public.
“If a county government can do it, the state government can do it,'' Krassner said Tuesday.
It isn't the first time the first-term Republican governor has been tangled up in an email controversy.
Scott's decision in May to make the emails public followed numerous complaints during his first year in office from media organizations that his administration was not fulfilling public records requests in a timely fashion. It was also about nine months after Scott ordered an investigation into how emails he had written between his election and taking office were deleted.
The embarrassing deletion of the emails prompted the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a law requiring the governor and other statewide elected officials to preserve and make public any documents and emails they send between their election and the time they are officially sworn into office. Scott supported the measure and signed it into law.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in June after a nine-month investigation that there was no evidence they were intentionally deleted.