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Knight FOI fund helps bring settlement in Florida Governor Lawsuit
COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 24, 2015) – The Associated Press reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet are settling a lawsuit* filed by media organizations and others over the firing of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey.
The lawsuit was filed by St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner, Citizens for Sunshine and nine media organizations including the Florida First Amendment Foundation and the Associated Press. To help with litigation costs, Mr. Weidner applied for and received an FOI grant from the National Freedom of information Coalition (NFOIC). NFOIC offers litigation grants to qualified applicants to pursue important open government cases. The fund is made possible through a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to NFOIC, the fund’s administrator.
The fund is aimed at covering the costs of bringing litigation, which would include up-front costs such as court costs, filing fees, depositions and related expenses. Recipients are expected to reimburse the fund for at least the full value of the grant when they are able to recover those costs as part of the resolution of the case for which grant funding was used.
Applicants may include individuals, organizations (including NFOIC member organizations), journalists, attorneys, news organizations, or any citizen needing support for a meritorious open government case. Applications submitted either directly to NFOIC or through a state FOI group will be forwarded to the NFOIC Litigation Committee. This year, NFOIC has received seven (7) grant applications.
* The lawsuit contended that Governor Scott and Cabinet members sidestepped the state’s Sunshine Law in the way they handled Bailey’s dismissal last year. The groups that sued Scott asserted that the firing should have been voted on during a public meeting, but instead the firing and the search for his replacement were handled behind the scenes through aides. After the two sides held closed mediation sessions, an agreement was reached. (Source: Associated Press)