“Governor Rick Scott, while touting fiscal restraint and conservatism, has played it fast and loose with our constitutional right of access to our government, and we Floridians are paying the price, both literally and figuratively,” explained Barbara Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation.
Ms. Petersen is describing the hypocrisy of Republican Governor Rick Scott, who is apparently quite comfortable spending taxpayer money on questionable schemes, and then the law suits that follow his illegal practices.
You may have heard of Florida’s efforts to require welfare recipients take drug tests in order to continue receiving support. It was expanded to include random drug testing of state employees. This questionable program ended up making his wife rich. She owned one of the drug companies offering the mandatory tests, which were paid for by the state. As it turned out, only 2 percent of the welfare recipients tested positive for drugs, and of the 2 percent testing positive, most were for marijuana. It also turned out to be completely illegal, and cost 1.5 million in legal fees. This was one of his schemes.
More recently, Governor Rick Scott agreed to pay Tallahassee lawyer, Steven R. Andrews, $700,000, using taxpayer money to settle seven separate lawsuits (one for each person involved) alleging he and members of his staff violated state law by creating email accounts designed to hide their communications from the general public and the legal system in Florida. This was not a frivolous lawsuit. They had broken the law, and the $700,000 paid to Mr. Andrews was in essence to make him go away. He signed a contract stating he would not pursue the matter any further. And Florida paid for it.
“We settled, and it was the right thing to do for the state,” Jackie Schultz, Scott’s spokeswoman, stated.
The settlement is precedent setting. This is the first time in Florida’s history a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued, and agreed to settle on, violations of Florida’s Public Records laws. It is also Governor Rick Scott’s third recent legal defeat in the last few months, and the second time he has used state money to “buy out” a lawsuit against him.
In June, it was agreed the state would pay $55,000 to a St. Petersburg lawyer, Matthew Weidner, who represented the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, several media organizations, and open government advocacy groups. This was because Republican Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet had violated the state’s open meeting laws. They had allowed staff to use private communications to get rid of former Florida Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, with no public discussion or debate.
“It is clear this governor has made a calculated decision that violating constitutional rights is the cost of doing business. A cost he doesn’t have to bear,” Weidner stated. “While these numbers are shocking, you can’t calculate the cost to citizens of the state for a government that is operating in darkness. The real cost will be borne in years to come for a government that operates in contempt of fundamental rights to record.”
Governor Rick Scott is a politician who has decided to maximize his profits while in office. He is not in office to serve the people of Florida. He is there to serve himself, and his family and friends. Considering his lack of ethics and comfort with deceit, it would not be a stretch to categorize him as a psychopath.