State Attorney Willie Meggs said Thursday that he will not investigate whether the state's open meetings law was violated by Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members in last month's ouster of the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"It doesn't ring my bell," Meggs told the Times/Herald. "If one of the Cabinet staff aides came to my office and wanted to confess, that's about the only way I'm going to prove a violation of the Sunshine Law. Short of that, I'd need a wire tap. People are generally smart enough that if they know they're violating the law they're not going to put it in writing."
St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner formally asked Meggs to investigate whether staff aides working for the Cabinet and Scott colluded in Gerald Bailey's removal, violating the Sunshine Law's requirement that business be conducted in public.
It was the second time in a week that Meggs refused to investigate the Bailey case. Last week, he downplayed allegations from Bailey that Scott had politicized the law enforcement agency as "much ado about nothing" and "nothing more than a squabble."
Meggs' office in Tallahassee, the state's capital, is often asked to intervene in allegations of wrongdoing by state officials.
He told Weidner that his complaint was speculative, at best.
"He told me that he read about the case in the newspaper," Meggs said. "I told him unless he had personal knowledge of what happened, I couldn't investigate. I can't just investigate because someone read about it in the newspaper."
Weidner said Meggs' refusal sets an unrealistic standard for prosecuting open meetings and public records cases.
"It's an impossible burden to say I need to have witnessed it," Weidner said. "I don't think that's what the law requires for there to be an investigation. Clearly there were conversations and emails that preceded Bailey's removal. It's wholly inconceivable that this happened without a public record."
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