St. Petersburg Times: Concealing public business from view

EDITORIAL

Charging a fortune for public records is a clear attempt to evade Florida’s sunshine laws and conceal public business from public view. That seems to be the motivation behind an invoice sent to state Sen. Mike Fasano for more than $10,000 for public records from Ash Williams, executive director of the state agency that manages $145 billion in Florida pension and other public funds. Williams has repeatedly resisted public records requests over a questionable hedge fund investment, and this whopping invoice to the New Port Richey Republican is another attempt to avoid public scrutiny. The Legislature should not sit still for this, and Williams’ bosses — Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater — have to choose between supporting him or the public’s right to know.

As head of the State Board of Administration, Williams invests money for hundreds of cities, counties and school districts and 1 million current and former public employees. He is expected to be accountable, not just to the board’s trustees — Scott, Bondi and Atwater — but to the public. Yet Williams has repeatedly rebuffed efforts by the St. Petersburg Times and Fasano to see public documents relating to a $125 million investment in a hedge fund. Williams had former business ties to a top executive at an associated fund.

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