Coley, Gaetz plan legislation to require transparency by public/private organizations using tax dollars

Dec 14, 2009

Fla. Rep. Marti Conley and Sen. Don Gaetz issued this news release on December 14, 2009.

Representative Marti Coley and Senator Don Gaetz today announced their intention to develop legislation that will clarify the extent to which Florida’s Sunshine Laws should be applied to organizations like Florida’s Great Northwest.

Earlier this month Coley and Gaetz had separately asked Attorney General Bill McCollum to issue an opinion on whether the economic development group, funded in part by tax dollars, is required to open its meetings and its records to public scrutiny.  There is no definite deadline for the Attorney General to issue what would be a non-binding ruling.

“I believe it is of utmost importance that taxpayers have faith that their tax dollars are being used wisely and that means taxpayers should not be kept in the dark on how their tax dollars are being used,” said Coley (R-Mariana).  Coley is a member of Florida’s Great Northwest board of directors.

“Entities like Florida’s Great Northwest are involved in sensitive negotiations with private companies to keep or bring private sector jobs to our area.  We hope that a practical solution can be found to ensure that this essential function isn’t compromised,” Coley and Gaetz explained.  “However, there are many functions of Florida’s Great Northwest and similar groups that can and should be carried out in the sunshine.”

“Florida’s Great Northwest is an important and effective tool for strengthening and diversifying the economy of our region,” Gaetz (R-Niceville) said.  “However, it’s my view that a proper balance can be found to provide transparency in the use of public funds and effectiveness in encouraging job development in the private sector.”

The two lawmakers intend to seek the advice and involvement of First Amendment advocacy groups as well as experienced business development leaders in crafting legislative language.