TALLAHASSEE | A television producer for one of Emeril Lagasse’s cooking shows is fighting a subpoena to turn over financial records to the Florida House of Representatives.
The House demanded last week that producer Pat Roberts and his company turn over records by Tuesday or risk hefty fines and even jail. Instead of complying, Roberts filed a lawsuit in federal court that contends his constitutional rights are being violated by the Republican-controlled House.
Legislators are asking for years of records detailing how the show “Emeril’s Florida” spent millions of dollars it received from the state’s tourism agency. Those documents include tax records from Roberts’ company MAT Media as well as information on how Lagasse was paid.
Visit Florida paid at least $10 million over a five-year period for the show that aired on The Cooking Channel. A House committee last October issued its own subpoena asking for the records, but Roberts refused to turn them over and instead filed a lawsuit in state court.
House leaders, worried the legal battle could be dragged out, took the extraordinary step of having the entire House vote on the subpoena request during the opening week of this year’s legislative session. House Speaker Richard Corcoran signed the subpoena in front of the entire chamber and had it delivered within minutes of approval.
Tim Jansen, one of the attorneys representing Roberts, said the House can’t threaten to punish his client without giving him a chance to challenge the request in court.
“Pat Roberts and MAT Media are not below the law and Speaker Corcoran and the House are not above the law,” Jansen said.
A spokesman for Corcoran, who is widely expected to run for governor this year, did not immediately respond to the latest lawsuit. But in the past, Corcoran has defended the House’s actions over the last few months, saying that legislators are trying to safeguard taxpayer money and that if Roberts has nothing to hide he should cooperate.
Attorneys for Roberts, however, have argued that some of the information the House is requesting is confidential business information that will trigger lawsuits if it is revealed.