Florida Officials Intimidate Requestors of Lawful Documents

Florida that bastion of anti-democracy, where black voters are stoped at roadblocks on election days, Republican staffers can create riots to shut down vote recounts and the state official in charge of overseeing the fair election is the state campaign coordinator for Bush, is at it again. There is a link on Boing Boing to this article about results of an investigation where journalists made requests for lawfully available documents from state officials. In almost half the cases, the officials did not give up the documents that they are required to by Florida’s “sunshine laws” for transparency in government. In some cases, the officials intimidated the requestors.

At many agencies, asking for a document immediately sparked suspicion. Roger Desjarlais, the Broward County administrator, threatened a volunteer by saying, “I can make your life very difficult.” After insisting that the volunteer give his name, Desjarlais used the Internet to identify the volunteer, find his cell phone number and call him after work hours. In an interview after the audit, Desjarlais denied that he threatened or tried to intimidate the volunteer, who is a reporter with SNN-Channel 6 in Sarasota. Desjarlais defended his actions, saying that the volunteer raised suspicion when he declined to explain who he was. Officials across the state had similar misgivings about volunteers who came into their offices. They cited a number of arbitrary reasons for their suspicions, including the volunteers’ hair length, casual dress and, in one case, “the look in his eyes.”

We are trying to bring democracy and fair free elections to Iraq. I really wish we were doing that in Florida.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.