A judge recuses herself from a lawsuit involving Ron DeSantis’ travel records

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©2024 The News Service of Florida

A judge has recused herself without explanation from a high-profile lawsuit involving Gov. Ron DeSantis’ travel records, more than seven months after she began presiding over the case.

Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey’s order Wednesday requesting that the case be assigned to another judge came the same day she was scheduled to hold a hearing in the lawsuit filed by The Washington Post.

The news organization filed the case against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in July, months after seeking documents that included information about DeSantis’ flight records and travel vouchers for an FDLE employee.

The Post in January added “the Executive Office of the Governor” as a defendant, pointing to events surrounding a contentious meeting between an FDLE attorney who advocated for providing the records and DeSantis aides who demanded the documents be withheld.

The dispute over the records has roiled the FDLE, resulting in whistleblower complaints and the ouster of two high-ranking officials.

Dempsey in September ordered the agency to provide “all nonexempt public records” to the Post.

The FDLE promised that it would disclose records such as an “18-page spreadsheet containing information related to the governor’s travel by plane,” according to a revised version of the lawsuit.

But after the governor’s aides confronted an FDLE attorney about the records, the documents were not provided to the Post.

The lawsuit also detailed a heated discussion during a meeting between lawyers for the governor’s office and FDLE attorney Janine Robinson about the release of the documents after the Republican-controlled Legislature last year passed a law shielding DeSantis’ travel records.

The law applied retroactively. The revised lawsuit also pointed to a Nov. 28 email from Patricia Carpenter, former deputy chief of staff at FDLE, to FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass detailing what took place at the meeting between Robinson and DeSantis aides and subsequent events linked to it.

Carpenter’s email, first reported by The News Service of Florida, said she was seeking whistleblower protection and complained that Robinson was denied a raise and a promotion because of the dispute with the governor’s office over the records.

Carpenter was put on administrative leave and fired on Dec. 1. Carpenter’s boss — former FDLE Chief of Staff Shayne Desguin — also was put on administrative leave and forced to retire after tangling with DeSantis’ staff.

The Post and the governor’s office also are wrangling over the Post’s attempts to subpoena or depose current and former employees of DeSantis and the FDLE.

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