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First Amendment Foundation backing Richard Corcoran on transparency

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, the state’s public records and open meetings watchdog, says it is supporting House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s “efforts on (tourism money) transparency and accountability.”

In a letter to Corcoran sent Tuesday by foundation President Barbara Petersen, the group responded to Corcoran’s recent “comments in the Orlando Sentinel regarding the need for transparency and accountability for tourism development organizations spending tax dollars to promote the interests of local communities.”

“We agree with your statements, Mr. Speaker, and offer our support for your efforts on behalf of all Floridians in ensuring that these organizations operate in the sunshine and remain accountable,” the letter said.

As reported by Orlando Rising last week, Corcoran sent letters to 12 tourism development councils, including Visit Orlando, that severed ties with VISIT FLORIDA demanding accountability and transparency in the way they spend taxpayer dollars.

Corcoran accused the councils of avoiding new accountability measures passed last November by the Florida House. He said their removal from partnerships with VISIT FLORIDA was “a vain effort to hide taxpayer-financed activities from the public.”

“Let me be painstakingly clear: If you spend one dime of taxpayer money, you will do it in a transparent and accountable way,” Corcoran said in a statement after sending the letters. “It should also alarm every Floridian that these 12 organizations in particular, funded with hundreds of millions of dollars of your money, made the choice to hide from transparency rather than embrace it.”

The First Amendment Foundation’s letter said it “believes that all expenditures of tax dollars should be public, and that all decisions concerning how and why that money is spent should also be open to public scrutiny. We expect that your call for accountability here—which we support—will also be reflected during the 2018 Legislature’s appropriations process.

“If we can be of any assistance in this regard, please don’t hesitate to contact us. And again, thank you for your strong stand and continuing support of transparency and accountability,” the letter concluded.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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