If we’re going to talk about politicians struggling with email controversies, perhaps we should turn attention towards Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Carl Hiaasen is wondering whether the Republican is “the worst governor in the history of Florida,” and it’s worth appreciating why.
The trouble started in earnest with a fairly obscure case: a Tallahassee attorney sued the governor a few years ago in a real-estate dispute. But as the Miami Herald reported, the underlying controversy grew and ended up mattering quite a bit.
Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to spend $700,000 in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits alleging he and several members of his staff violated state law when they created email accounts to shield their communications from state public records laws and then withheld the documents. […]The settlement, first obtained by the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, is precedent-setting in that it is the first time in state history that a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued successfully for violations of Florida’s public records laws. It is also the third legal defeat in recent months for the governor, and the second time he has agreed to use state dollars to end a lawsuit against him.
Each of these details seems slightly worse than the last. It’s a problem that Rick Scott and his aides violated state law; it’s a bigger problem that they keep losing in court; and it’s a bigger problem still that Team Scott is using taxpayer money to resolve the cases.
And given the political world’s extraordinary interest in public officials and email accounts, it’s probably worth emphasizing that in Scott’s case, the governor and his staff “set up a series of private Gmail accounts and used them to conduct public business.”
The governor had previously claimed those accounts didn’t exist. Those claims weren’t true.
But it’s the use of public funds that has Carl Hiaasen thinking that Rick Scott is “certainly a prime contender for worst ever, and each new screwing of Floridians pushes him closer to the title.”
During the last few months, taxpayers have been soaked for more than $1 million to settle lawsuits in which Scott and his dim-bulb Cabinet flagrantly violated Florida’s open-records and open-meetings laws.No other sitting governor has used tax money to end public-records cases that were caused by his own secretive misbehavior. Scott couldn’t care less.
Hiaasen, a celebrated Florida writer who has seen plenty of colorful political characters come and go, concluded, “It’s still too early to crown [Rick Scott] with the title of Worst Governor Ever, but none in modern memory has worked harder to conceal his actions or spent more of the public’s money covering them up.”