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Keep it open


Published:   |   Updated: January 28, 2014 at 03:58 PM

In the 1960s, the Florida Legislature won plaudits for enacting legislation that came to be known as the Sunshine Laws. These laws say that government meetings and records are open to the public unless the Legislature has created a specific exemption. The basic idea behind the Sunshine Laws is that the people’s business should be done in public.

The Legislature, unfortunately, took a bit of the shine off the open-government rose by granting itself a number of exemptions that allow it at times to operate out of the sunshine. Over the years it has granted around 300 exemptions to the Sunshine Laws, some of which make sense and others that are a bit dubious. For example, public bodies such as city councils or county commissions can hold closed-door meetings to discuss proposed settlements of legal actions to which they are a party. Minutes of such executive sessions, however, are supposed to be kept and become open to public inspection once the case is settled. Fair enough.

State Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, wants to exempt from public disclosure the names of people applying to be president, provost or dean of a state university or college. Worthy candidates to lead Florida’s institutes of higher learning might forgo applying because they might lose the jobs they already have, Kerner says.

Given how much Florida — and its students and their parents — spent at the state’s colleges and universities, however, the public has a right to know who wants to run them before they are hired. Besides, we’ve never seen fear of public exposure keep college football coaches from job shopping.

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