TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Cabinet met Thursday for the first time in nearly four months, with three of the panel's statewide elected officials joining by phone and the forth taking her seat on an empty dais in the state Capitol.
What You Need To Know
- Tensions clear between Gov. DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
- Fried critical of "marginalization" of cabinet during DeSantis' handling of coronavirus crisis
- State CFO, Attorney General each expressed support for DeSantis' actions during crisis
- More Florida Capitol stories
Removing her mask to speak near the end of the meeting, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told Gov. Ron DeSantis his rejection of her requests to hear from state health officials and study the state's finances amid the crisis amount to a breach of transparency.
"These agenda requests were made in good faith and were not acknowledged, let alone fulfilled," Fried said. "That's a real shame for everyone who deserves the truth. Floridians expect our government to be united, especially during this time of unprecedented challenges."
As the Cabinet's sole Democrat, Fried has often tussled with the governor, but her condemnation of what she says has been his marginalization of the panel's role during the crisis has been particularly biting. DeSantis' staff canceled two previously-scheduled Cabinet meetings as the virus began spreading throughout the state.
"Each of us received more than four million votes and were put here to do a job, and for the most critical nearly four months of this pandemic, this Cabinet has been left in the dark," she argued.
Fried has questioned why the DeSantis administration initially withheld information about which nursing homes and state prisons had suffered coronavirus deaths. She has also called for a probe into the sudden firing of Rebekah Jones, a manager of the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard, who told friends she refused to remove critical metrics from the site.
But the governor has defenders in Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who praised his administration's handling of the crisis.
"Governor, this is Jimmy," Patronis interjected on the call. "Look, hey, I wanted to thank you. I'm more proud to be a Floridian by watching you and your administration deal with something that has never been seen before in any of our lifetimes."
At the start of the meeting, DeSantis ignored Fried's request to hold a moment of silence for Florida's coronavirus victims.