Editorial: Don’t compromise access to Florida’s public records

The Florida Legislature appears headed down a dark path to compromise government in the sunshine.

Bills are moving that would allow governments that violate public records laws to avoid paying legal fees of citizens who take them to court and win. That would remove one of the few incentives government officials have to produce public records, protect those withholding public information and compromise the ability of citizens to protect their constitutional rights.

When citizens are denied public records, their only recourse is to go to court.

Now lawyers who win public records cases are entitled to be paid their legal fees by the custodian of the records. Legislation filed by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, would change the law from saying the courts "shall'' award legal fees when they find government illegally withheld public records to they "may'' award legal fees. Continue…