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Florida Government in the Dark

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Before Republican Rick Scott ran for governor of Florida the first time, in 2010, the voters knew he was a crook: He defrauded Medicare as CEO of Columbia/HCA Hospitals, the largest for-profit health-care corporation in the United States. Okay, he wasn’t convicted of anything, but the company admitted to 14 felony charges and paid a $600 million fine to the federal government. Hey, corporations are people … I mean, they’re not people … I mean … Well, who are you going to believe? You can sue corporations, but not their officers. People like Florida’s governor, who robbed the government and got off Scott-free, are the same people who argue that corporations are people and should be allowed to give as much as they want to political candidates. And the U.S. Supreme Court decided they were right.

Scott on the rocks

Scott set about governing so abominably that his polls sank like a rock, and no clear-thinking person thought there was a remote chance he would be re-elected. Scott stopped the feds from giving the state $2.4 billion to build a high-speed rail and create 24,000 jobs; cut already-low teacher salaries; initiated a drug testing program for state workers and welfare recipients to benefit the testing company he owned, a program that proved far fewer of the welfare folks used drugs than the general population; and instituted other programs contrary to the interests of all of his constituents except the rich.

Ah, but then the 2014 election drew nigh. In an amazing metamorphosis, Scott suddenly was the friend of teachers and education, gave tax cuts, and in general became a champion of the common folk. And so, a slight majority of the Florida voters said hey, this guy is all right. He’s for us. Let’s forgive and forget. That was last November.

Behind closed doors

One of the things Scott did after the 2010 election, in his first day on the job, was to show voters he would work for them by establishing the Office of Open Government. Its purpose was to enable Floridians to “hold government accountable” and ensure that the governor’s office met requests for public records expeditiously. Four-and-a-half years later, the Palm Beach Post noted a few days ago, “it’s hard to name another governor in Florida’s modern history who has shown more disdain for this state’s tradition of open government.” He has gone to court repeatedly in attempts to keep state business hidden from public view, cavalierly costing taxpayers about $1.3 million in legal fees while losing these legal battles like a bad Las Vegas gambler.

But it wasn’t his money he was gambling. It was the taxpayers’, who paid a total of $965,000 to defend against, and extricate him from, a lawsuit accusing him and top staffers of creating private email accounts to hide their communications. Scott and the Cabinet racked up more than $367,000 in legal fees, including $55,000 to public records advocates that included news organizations, to defend against a lawsuit accusing him of violating open-meeting laws when he and the state’s leaders fired Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey with no public discussion or vote.

Sleight of hand

To pay for these abuses of the public’s right to know, Scott dipped into agency budgets, withdrawing $445,000, for example, from the Department of Environmental Protection. That money was supposed to

Florida Department of Environmental Regulation

Three years ago, Scott initiated Project Sunburst, promising to make emails of him and top staffers accessible online. Later, it was discovered that he had been using a private email account for state business and kept some of them out of the public record. Though he announced that public records requests would be posted on his website, it reportedly still takes weeks or months for them to appear, the Post said.

State of fools

Florida Government in the Sunshine

Message to majority of Florida voters: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

#FloridaCabinet #ColumbiaHCAHospitals #GovernmentintheSunshine #LasVegasgambler #GeraldBailey #PalmBeachPost #highspeedrail #FloridaAmendment1 #FloridaDepartmentofEnvironmentalProtection #RickScott #ProjectSunburst #FloridaOfficeofOpenGovernment

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