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Cretul's bill would put hospital searches in the shadows

A bill before the Florida House would keep secret the names of applicants for executive positions at Florida’s 26 public hospitals until the end of the search.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Cretul, a Republican from Ocala, the proposed legislation came out of a feud between the Ocala-Star Banner and Munroe Regional Medical Center over its CEO search last year. The newspaper was refused a list of applicants for the job, and the Ocala public hospital ended up being indicted.

“This to me began to show a little bit of a flaw in the system,” Cretul said.

Some candidates are hesitant to apply in Florida because their employers could find out they're looking elsewhere, Cretul said. He emphasized the legislation would provide anonymity to applicants only until a short list of recommended candidates is passed on to the final decision-making body.

“That’s all this bill does,” Cretul said, adding he thought the Ocala Star-Banner was exaggerating the its implications. “You’d think I was shooting the sun right out of the sky.”

Adria Harper, director of the First Amendment Foundation, said keeping applicants’ names private even early in the process is a dangerous exemption to government access. She said the bill “stinks.”

“It’s critical that citizens know who’s applying for top positions in our government,” Harper said. “The whole purpose of the law is to provide access and participation in the process.”