ST. PETERSBURG (CBS4)- Gov. Rick Scott told newspaper editors Friday that public records requests have skyrocketed since he has taken office and the fees he’s charging to provide documents are needed to make sure taxpayer money isn’t wasted.
Scott, whose relationship with the media has been a little rocky since he took office in January, spoke at the annual Florida Press Association/Florida Society of News Editors convention and was twice asked about his policies on public records.
St. Petersburg Times Editor Paul Tash told Scott told that one of his reporters obtained thousands of pages of public records at a cost of about $150 to investigate a story on the exorbitant cost of a courthouse, but under Scott’s policy it would have cost her thousands of dollars to get the same records.
“Governor, is the extra revenue to the state worth the tradeoff of the chilling effect of scrutiny on state government?” Tash asked.
Scott defended his policy.
“Part of my job is to make sure I don’t waste taxpayer money,” Scott said. “It costs us money to do, we pass that cost on, so it’s the right thing to do.”
Scott did say that he is trying to put more documents on the Internet to make it easier for journalists to do their jobs.
“You need to have access to information,” Scott said.
Scott’s predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, had a policy of not charging the media for public records. State law allows charges for the cost of copying records and for staff time to review records to make sure confidential information isn’t contained in them.
Scott, who didn’t meet with a single newspaper editorial board before he was elected last year, said he now plans to do so.
“I travel the state pretty much every day,” Scott told the editors. “I look forward to seeing you as I travel the state.”
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