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Slapped for making a 'mockery' of transparency, House and Senate now order redistricting docs retained

After being pummeled by a harshly-worded court ruling that concluded Florida's legislative leaders destroyed documents and allowed political consultants to "make a mockery" of their self-described transparency in the redistricting process, legislative leaders are now taking precautions. 

In an email late Friday to Senate members and staff, Senate President Don Gaetz asked everyone to "keep and do not delete" all redistricting records in light of the pending litigation over congressional districts. In a similar email at the same time, House deputy general counsel Steve Godwin gave the same directions to House members and staff and highlighted the same words. 

The emails came hours after Lewis ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ordered unconstitutional. He said he was considering calling a special election after Nov. 4 for the affected districts and he called for an Aug. 20 hearing to decide how to go forward.  Download Romo.remedy-order.august-1-2014-1

Gaetz along with House Speaker Will Weatherford must decide whether to appeal the order, defy the court, or call lawmakers into session to revise the maps. He said legislators "have not made a decision how to proceed "but sent out the records retention notice just in case. Lewis in his July 10 ruling found that the "winning is everything" approach to political debate today contributed to the climate that allowed GOP political consultants to conspire "to infuence and manipulate the Legislature into violation of its constitutional duty" under the Fair District amendments.

Gaetz's memo defines documents as "all records related to the enactment of new congressional districts, including copies of unfiled draft maps, unfiled draft bills and amendments, correspondence, emails, texts and other electronic communications related to the enactment of new congressional districts, whether sent or received on official Senate accounts or devices or personal email accounts or devices.

Lewis' July 10 ruling, which is not being appealed by legislators, said that because the Legislature allowed political operatives to conduct a shadow redistricting process, "they made a mockery of the Legislatures' proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process...but going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it."

Lewis noted that central to the case was proving legislative intent, something made difficult by the Legislature's destruction of records.

"There was no legal duty on the part of the Legislature to preserve these records, but you have to wonder why they didn't,'' he wrote in the July 10 judgment. "Litigation over their plans was 'a moral certainty,' as their lawyers put it earlier in the case, and intent would be a key issue in any challenge."

He also noted that final decisions on the two districts he concluded were drawn to benefit Republicans where made at a "non-public" meeting between Weatherfordm Gaetz and the redistricting staff directors, Alex Kelly and John Guthrie.

Whether lawmakers will conduct public hearings, or attempt to gather submissions from the public again is an open question.

In his ruling, Lewis questioned why the political operatives "whose jobs or livelihoods were tied into protecting their clients' and their party's interests with respect to redistricting" did not openly file any proposed maps and staff and legislative leaders didn't bother to ask why. They also never explored the partisan motives of those who submitted maps. (see pp. 26-27, Download Romo.final-judgment.july-10-2014)

"Turning a blind eye to the probability of improper intent in these maps is not the same as neutrality,'' Lewis wrote. He also concluded: perhaps "relying on publicly submitted maps may not be the best way to protect against partisan influence."

Here's Gaetz's email:

From: Office of the Senate President [mailto:OfficeoftheSenatePresident@flsenate.gov]
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2014 7:30 PM
To: !ALL SENATORS
Cc: !ALL SENATE
Subject: Record Retention

 

 

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THE FLORIDA SENATE

SENATOR DON GAETZ

President

 

 

 

Memorandum

 

 

TO:

All Senators

FROM:

Don Gaetz, President

SUBJECT:

Record Retention

DATE:

August 1, 2014

 

 

While we have not yet made a decision on how to proceed in response to Judge Lewis’s order issued today, the Legislature previously agreed to enact a remedial congressional plan.  Accordingly, I draw your attention to the record retention policies set forth in the Senate Rules.  Senate Rule 1.48(3) governing district office records involving legislative business dictates that records required by law be kept until they become obsolete. 

In light of the current litigation challenging the congressional maps, you and your staff should keep and do not delete any and all records related to the enactment of new congressional districts, including copies of unfiled draft maps, unfiled draft bills and amendments, correspondence, emails, texts and other electronic communications related to the enactment of new congressional districts, whether sent or received on official Senate accounts or devices or personal email accounts or devices. 

As an additional reminder, the Secretary and professional staff maintain copies of filed bills, filed amendments, vote sheets, bill analyses, fiscal notes, as well as meeting files, including agendas, appearance cards, final reports submitted by committees, official correspondence sent or received by a committee and audio recordings of committee meetings.  Accordingly, you need not retain these records as part of your files.

If you have questions about what needs to be retained, I encourage you to contact the Senate General Counsel Office at (850) 487-5237.

Here's Godwin's email to the House:

From: Godwin, Steve 
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2014 7:18 PM
To: !HSE All House
Subject: Records Retention --- Remedial Congressional Plan
Importance: High

 

Dear Members and Staff:

 

While we have not yet made a decision on how to proceed in response to Judge Lewis’s order issued today, the Legislature has previously agreed to enact a remedial congressional plan.  Accordingly, I draw your attention to the record retention policies set forth in the House Rules.  House Rule 14.2 governing legislative business records dictates that records that are required to be created by the House Rules or that are of vital, permanent, or archival value shall be maintained, provided they are of sufficient administrative, legal, or fiscal significance to warrant their retention.

 

Accordingly, you should keep and do not delete any and all records related to redistricting, including copies of unfiled draft maps, unfiled draft bills and amendments, correspondence, emails, texts and other electronic communications, whether sent or received on official House accounts or devices or personal email accounts or devices. 

 

The Clerk and professional staff maintain copies of filed bills, filed amendments, vote sheets, bill analyses, fiscal notes, as well as meeting files, agendas, appearance cards, final reports submitted by committees, official correspondence sent or received by a committee and audio recordings of committee meetings.  Accordingly, you and your staff need not retain these records as part of your files.

If you have questions about what should be retained, I encourage you to contact the House General Counsel Office at (850) 717-5500.

 

Steve Godwin, Deputy General Counsel

Comments

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ed jenkins

The citizens have repeatedly said they want this most horrible fight over mundane administrative government procedures removed from their courts where it is wasting taxpayer confiscated money and now threatens to throw elections into chaos and uncertainty all for the pleasure of a small group of cartographers and a group that claims to represent one sex of voters.

palmettoexile

I find the fact that the top echelon of the Florida legislature thought it unnecessary to follow the law as defined by the following:
" Accordingly, I draw your attention to the record retention policies set forth in the Senate Rules. Senate Rule 1.48(3) governing district office records involving legislative business dictates that records required by law be kept until they become obsolete.
As the previous was in the memo sent our by President of the Senate, Don Gaetz, and Steve Godwin, deputy General Counsel, One would reasonably assume that these same Legislators would have retained all records, emails, correspondence, etc., when they were in the process of re-drawing the Districting maps. Instead, these members decided to delete all; as Judge Lewis asked, why did these people allow such egregious violations to occur in the first place and why did they not-question any part of the process? They have stated that they knew an appeal was likely; why then, the secrecy behind closed-door sessions and the deletion of all documents?
I think the citizens are sufficiently intelligent enough to ascertain the answers to these rhetorical questions-the Republicans in the Legislature did indeed, not only deceive the public of their actions, but also "conspired" to hide their methodology in the redistricting process.
It will be interesting to see whether this seemingly cocksure Republican-dominated Legislature decides to appeal the ruling; if so, they run the real risk of the citizens learning just how /why they felt the need to act so. I don't believe Gaetz, Weatherford, et al really wish to put this out on public display; if they do, they will be forced to admit guilt as to the intent of their actions. As of yet, none have actually admitted such-the statements were "..we will comply with the Judge's ruling.."
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and "smells" like a duck, it probably IS a duck. The 'leadersip' in this State apparently thinks and certainly acts as though they are not bound by their own rules of ethical and transparent behavior.
Fun days ahead folks! I wonder if the next elections will be carried out via the letter and intent of the law- in other words-LEGAL. Stay tuned...

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