Earlier this week, a charge of violating Florida’s open meeting laws against Chris Dorworth, a former state lawmaker who was once slated to be the next House speaker, were dropped.
Dorworth had been charged for his lobbying work with the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority.
Prosecutors say Dorworth, an authority board member and a Department of Transportation public affairs worker participated in meetings and communicated about expressway business through “conduits, intermediaries or third parties.”
Dorworth’s attorney had argued it was the first time a private citizen had been prosecuted for violating the public meetings law. The attorney said the prosecution violated Dorworth’s right to free speech.
I’ve written extensively about this case and will let my previous work speak for itself. I will state that even if I believe Dorworth did something wrong, I would have hated to see a father separated from his children.
Also, I am keeping my commentary about this case to a minimum because I actually lost a political client (and friend) because of something I wrote. A lawmaker friend of Dorworth stopped doing business with my firm after I wrote a column particularly critical of Dorworth and his flipping of property which once belonged to the Catholic Church.
So I will leave it to the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell, a longtime critic of Dorworth, to provide an epilogue to this affair:
“…if this dismissal stands, it should be a wake-up call for Florida’s elected officials. It shows that the politicians will pay the price when lobbyists try to use them. Remember: Both X-way board members — Marco Pena and Scott Batterson — pleaded guilty (Pena) and No Contest (Batterson) to the Sunshine Law violations. Meanwhile, the guy who prosecutors say helped them break the law is getting a pass. Not only that, Dorworth’s attorney actually said the proper targets were the guys Dorworth was lobbying. (Wonder how that will sit with other clients of Ballard Partners … and public officials Dorworth tries to lobby in the future?)”