The Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (FIRE) has partnered with the First Amendment Foundation to offer a free training tomorrow in Orlando at 9:30 AM on open government. The training will cover topics on open meetings, public records laws, open government, first amendment, and media law topics to help us all hold our elected leaders accountable.
Recent controversies involving state officials and local officials who have benefited from a culture of entitlement and cronyism in the state and who have also at times been the beneficiaries of a passive media particularly in Tallahassee have continued to dominate the thinking of many citizens of the state. Florida at one time promoted Government in the Sunshine, thanks to the numerous scandals that dominated state government in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Florida quickly went from one of the most corrupt states in the union to one of the most open and transparent thanks to the leadership of Governor Reubin Askew and the progressive legislature of the mid 1970’s. However, in recent years as Republican control of the state has solidified and elected Democrats have consciously chosen a course of accommodation over the desire to hold the top officials at county and state levels accountable, Florida has backslid tremendously toward the low standard set in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Elected officials have been invited to the training which fulfills section 112.3412 of the Florida Statutes of the required training and continuing education that constitutional officers are required to complete. Ethics Training is an important part of Government in the Sunshine though time and again, those who lead our largest counties and this state fail to understand the lesson from these trainings. Or perhaps the arrogance and a sense of entitlement that comes with being a high-ranking official is too much to overcome in the case of certain individuals.
Recent scandals such a “Textgate” in Orange County have highlighted the need for a vigilant citizen population and strong activism for good government and ethics. Elected officials in this day and age understand that with the diminishing resources allocated to investigative journalism at the major newspapers in this state, they potentially have more and more leeway to break open government laws and violate ethical standards.
For this reason, trainings like the one in Orlando tomorrow are so critical to maintaining a proper balance in this state, which after all is supposed to a be democracy in the sunshine.