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DeSantis staffers blocked public records, ex-law enforcement officials say

Top aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blocked the release of records detailing his taxpayer-funded travel and retaliated against those who favored making them public, according to sworn statements from two former Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials.

The statements were filed Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court as part of a Washington Post lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Florida law limiting release of the governor’s travel records. The officials describe DeSantis’s staff demanding a close review of many requests from media organizations, often hampering the release of public information.

“This extra layer of review often unquestionably delayed FDLE’s ability to timely respond to public records requests,” said former FDLE chief of staff Shane Desguin. The governor’s office’s “review of FDLE records would regularly take weeks or longer.”

Those delays, Desguin added, were not in line with the new Florida law’s requirement to protect the governor’s safety.

“In my view, and based on … my experience in more than 30 years as a certified law enforcement officer, disclosure of those public records to the Post, or anyone else, would not have threatened the safety of the Governor,” Desguin said. “Instead, disclosure of those records, in my view, would allow the public to understand how their tax dollars are used in the provision of important public services.”

Desguin’s sworn statement, filed along with a declaration from former FDLE deputy chief of staff Patricia Carpenter, add new detail to a simmering conflict between the agency’s top staff and DeSantis’s office over the state law, which the Republican governor signed as he flew around the country on a presidential campaign with taxpayer-funded security in tow. That battle led to Desguin and Carpenter’s departures from FDLE at the end of last year as Carpenter filed for whistleblower protection, which the agency’s inspector general denied.

DeSantis’s office declined to comment on Desguin and Carpenter’s allegations, instead referring to court filings made by lawyers for the governor who have argued that The Post is on a “fishing expedition” and that the case against his office should be dismissed because it does not maintain his travel records. FDLE provides security and transportation for the governor and his family and keeps those records in addition to its statewide law enforcement activities.

The governor’s office and FDLE are also asking the court to block The Post’s efforts to take testimony from several staffers from both offices who Desguin and Carpenter say thwarted the release of the records and retaliated against them.

Lawyers for FDLE say the documents requested by The Post are appropriately being withheld under the new state law.

“The numerous depositions and document productions sought by the Post make clear its intent to use this lawsuit to generate headlines and stories to smear FDLE and others in the current Administration,” lawyers say in court documents.

Lawyers for The Post said in court filings that the lawsuit is seeking “transparency and accountability.” An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for April 10.

Desguin and Carpenter describe in their statements being pushed out of the agency because they recommended a promotion for FDLE attorney Janine Robinson, who had promised The Post it would receive the records last fall before the governor’s office intervened. Robinson recently left the agency for a job with the Florida attorney general. She has not responded to requests for comment.

“I cannot recall a time in my nearly 20 years of experience at FDLE when the Governor’s Office had so intimately involved itself in a personnel decision at Ms. Robinson’s then-existing and proposed level of responsibility,” Desguin said.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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