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Rick Scott, 1st-Ever Florida Governor Successfully Sued Over Sunshine Law, Settles for $700,000 in Taxpayer Dollars

| August 8, 2015

gov. rick scott sunshine law violation

Gov. Secrecy. (c FlaglerLive)

A dispute alleging Gov. Rick Scott and his staff subverted public-records laws will cost the state $700,000, according to an agreement released Friday by the governor’s office.

As first reported by the Herald/Times capital bureau, the state will pay the money to Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, who until this week had been involved in a legal battle with Scott and the Cabinet about the state’s desire to expand property known as “The Grove” near the governor’s mansion.

The settlement is precedent-setting, the Herald wrote, “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. Also signing the agreement is Attorney General Pam Bondi.”

The money will come from four agencies — $445,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection, $120,000 from the governor’s office, $75,000 from the attorney general’s office and $60,000 from the Department of State.

In the course of battling about the property near The Grove, Andrews made public-records requests. Ultimately, a California judge ordered Internet giant Google in April to turn over correspondence through computer IP addresses from the Gmail accounts of Scott and two former staff members. Andrews argued that Scott used Gmail to sidestep the state’s public-records laws.

The agreement to pay Andrews in the public-records dispute was signed Wednesday, the same day that Scott and Cabinet members approved a settlement that ended the Grove property battle.

That battle started in 2012 when Scott and state Cabinet members decided they wanted to buy land that included Andrews’ law office as part of an expansion plan for The Grove, which was the former home of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins and his family. However, Andrews challenged the state plan, as he had entered a contract in 2011 to buy the land for his office.

The state had an option to buy the property under the same terms as Andrews offered, what is known as a “right of first refusal.” But Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that the state sought to impose conditions that were not included in the Andrews contract and had sent a payment that was about $20,000 short of the $580,000 that Andrews agreed to pay.

The state appealed that decision, but the property settlement approved Wednesday ended the appeal.

The settlement gives the state the option to purchase Andrews’ property if at any point he wants to sell it. The settlement also will lead to Andrews granting a permanent parking easement to the state. The state intends to open The Grove as a museum, but currently there is no parking or public access.

The Grove, north of downtown Tallahassee, was built in the 19th Century by Richard Keith Call, who served as a territorial governor before Florida became a state. The state bought the home in 1985.

The agreement to end the Andrews public-records dispute came on the heels of Scott and the Cabinet agreeing to pay $55,000 in legal fees in June to settle a lawsuit alleging they violated the state’s Sunshine Law in the removal of longtime Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Open-government advocates and media organizations had sued Scott and the Cabinet in February seeking documents involving Bailey’s abrupt departure two months earlier. The plaintiffs argued that Scott and the Cabinet used staff members as “conduits” in discussions about Bailey’s resignation.

The Herald/Times capital bureau reported the state spent at least $225,000 on its own legal costs in defense against the open-government advocates and media organizations.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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14 Responses for “Rick Scott, 1st-Ever Florida Governor Successfully Sued Over Sunshine Law, Settles for $700,000 in Taxpayer Dollars”

  1. Rich says:

    Why, oh why, has this Governor not been impeached or recalled?

  2. Commom Sense says:

    He is the darling of the Tea Party and the RRR. He was a crook before and he is still an arrogant man who thinks he can’t be touched.

  3. Sherry E says:

    Exactly Common Sense . . . the trouble is, as horrible as Scott is, he is probably right to believe he can continue to pull these kinds of stunts without being touched. The voters in our state are so blind and pathetic, they would probably vote him in again. Thank goodness for term limits. . . but, unfortunately we still must suffer 3 more years of this horrific man and many of his cronies in the legislature. Ugh!!!

    • Jane P. says:

      Sadly, he’ll probably be elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018 since he’s already raising money for that purpose.

  4. JimS says:

    I’ll click on anything

  5. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Sunshine laws need more teeth, suing and getting a settlement from the taxpayers doesn’t protect the taxpayers from people or groups that violate it; we need criminal penalties with consequences leading up to losing office or jail attached to it.

  6. Footballen says:

    Right, right and right! How is it that WE have to pay for his mistakes? BS!!!!!!!!!

  7. Sherry E says:

    Oh Yes, Jane, I forgot about his intention to run for the Senate. OMG. . . our brain dead voters may keep us suffering with this horrible shell of a person forever!

    Right on Samuel. . . we now have plenty of room for the Rick Scotts of this world to fit in our new jail. The trouble is, the corrupt 1%ers seldom receive the jail time they deserve. How much harm has Scott done to the citizens/taxpayers of our state compared to some poor person rotting away for possessing a couple of ounces of pot? Our justice system really is often completely blind. . . just like our voters!

  8. RickG says:

    More sleaze from a guy who has no respect for taxpayer dollars. Can you spell Medicare???

  9. Lancer says:

    Simply, Scott should reimburse the taxpayers of the state their legal expenses. Meanwhile, the left won’t acknowledge their choice for governor, flip flopper Charlie Crist, was in the pocket of Morgan and Morgan…and would have been worse!

    However, what kind of brain dead person talks about the “1%ers” then stands up to campaign for the most corrupt of them…HilLIARy Clinton? That is the dem choice, after all…no debates, she is it and you will like it. Further, is the misguided belief that dems are for the “little man”. No they’re not…if they were they’d be “little” too…they’re just as wealthy as the “evil, greedy, mean spirited, homophobic, religious zealot” repubs.

    Must be those msnbc watchers. SMH.

    • Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

      Well, it’s nice to see they let the seniors at the retirement home use the internet to sent cat pictures and post fox-level comments on flaglerlive. Keep up the good work. :)

  10. wishful thnking says:

    How about a photo op of the gov in one of our spanking new concrete jail cells???

  11. Environmental Lady says:

    Can someone explain to me why it is the Department of Environmental Protection is being charged the bulk of the fees?

    • DrCroland says:

      Because he has no respect whatsoever for environmental issues. We’re talking about a governor who has forbidden state employees to even mention the words “climate change”. One of them who did recently dare to mention it, was ordered to either — get this — undergo a psychiatric evaluation or lose his job.

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