A Florida judge on Wednesday ruled against Gov. Rick Scott in an ongoing lawsuit over whether his administration flouted the state’s public records law.
Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis granted a request from a frequent critic of the Republican governor to subpoena records from Google and Yahoo. Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews wants information on private email accounts that he says were used by the Scott administration to sidestep the state’s public records law.
Florida has some of the most robust public records laws in the country and normally state agencies must turn over emails on private accounts if they concern state business.
Francis granted what he called a “limited request” over the objections of the Scott administration. The subpoena would require the two tech companies to turn over information on when the accounts were established and by whom. It does not require that any actual emails be turned over.
Attorney Thomas Bishop, whose firm has an $85,000 contract to help fight the lawsuit, maintained the records were irrelevant and part of a “fishing expedition.” He said the Scott administration has already turned over “tens of thousands” of documents.
“I think there’s sort of broad brush approach to this that says we can poke around and look at all these things,” Bishop told the judge.
Andrews, however, countered during the brief hearing that former aides to Scott have already told him that the governor uses private emails to conduct state business. But he was told by the office that handles record requests that there weren’t any private email accounts used by the governor.
Andrews pointed to text messages from one former aide that referenced an email from the governor yet the email has not been turned over.
“They don’t give you anything until you catch them,” Andrews said.
Bishop did not deny that private email accounts were being used. But he said that getting information on who controls the accounts would not answer whether the emails mentioned state business.
A spokeswoman for Yahoo said that the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Google did not immediately respond for comment about the court order.
Andrews, whose clashes with Scott date back to the 2010 campaign, is currently suing Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi over whether they hid records related to a dispute over land near the governor’s mansion.
Andrews wants to buy the land since his law office is located on it. The Scott administration wants the land as part of a plan to turn the adjacent historic home of former Gov. LeRoy Collins into a museum. Andrews contends state officials were not interested in the property until Scott found out that he was involved.
Frank Collins, a spokesman for Scott, said that Andrews has a “personal grudge against state government and no shortage of time to file lawsuits.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.