One of the first things Scott did when he took office was to make it harder for anyone to gain access to public records, while also making it cost prohibitive to the average citizen who has every right to know what's being done with their money, and on their behalf.
Just in the past few weeks, it seems that every day brings another revelation about something Scott and the GOP are trying to hide from the public. Because there are too many to warrant a separate post for each one, here are just a few recent glaring examples:
Department Of Children & Families Stops Reporting Child Deaths
Perhaps one of the most egregious and disgusting examples has been the DCF inaction under Scott's watch. Last year the Miami Herald published a scathing report of neglect, abuse, and unacceptable numbers of child deaths in the state. At the time of that report, the number was 478. If that wasn't bad enough, instead of trying to deal with the problem, Rick Scott instead tried to weaken oversight at DCF. Despite that effort, the idea was tabled. What we didn't know at the time is that was hardly the end of the deception. Earlier this week the Herald revealed that when those numbers became public, DCF simply stopped making incident reports on the deaths that came after, beginning with an infant who died in December of last year:
An investigator prepared an incident report on the baby’s death later that day and emailed it to a supervisor.
The paper trail ended there.
Kimberly Welles, an administrator at the Department of Children & Families’ Southeast Region, deleted the incident report, email records show. And she instructed the supervisor who wrote it, Lindsey McCrudden, to deep-six it, as well.
“Please do not file this in the system. No incident reports right now on death cases,” Welles wrote in an email that day. “Please withdraw this and thanks. Will advise why later.”
The number of deaths hidden from the public? 30. When doing something to prevent more child deaths becomes too costly for Scott's bottom line, and attempts to weaken oversight fails, just stop reporting the deaths. Problem solved.
Gaming The Vote Behind Closed Doors
It's well known that Scott and the GOP have never met a voter suppression tactic they didn't like, and we've seen the results of their voter purges and those long lines in 2012. On top of that is the farce of redistricting which has been playing out in court the past couple weeks. When voters got Fair Districts Amendments on the ballot and later won, against the wishes of the GOP, they simply tried a new tactic: Drawing new district maps more favorably for themselves, and tried to hide their efforts from the voters they ignored. The trial has shown there was an obvious effort to make an end run around democracy, and one scientist testified that it was "virtually impossible" that the Legislature had drawn the current map without some intentional level of partisan bias."
[Jonathan] Katz said preliminary analysis of the 2012 election results showed the same bias.
“In this case they did a really good job of following the recipe about how to do a partisan gerrymander," Katz testified in the Leon County court room.
Katz was then asked if he had considered the question of intent, which he had not.
“Intent’s a legal question and I’m not a lawyer," Katz said.
"What my analysis is about is whether or not the plan shows statistically significant partisan bias. The answer is it does. They produced a partisan gerrymander.”
And as if to drive home the secrecy of the process, were there any doubters, reporters and the public were banned from the courtroom for part of the testimony, because the consultants drawing the maps said how they go about this partisan gerrymandering is a "trade secret."
On a side note, Rick Scott, Attorney Pam Bondi and the rest of the GOP have already decided that there is no need to investigate whether or not anyone lied on those redistricting maps even though it may appear that way. Because of course they would.
GOP Expressway Authority Officials Indicted For Violating Sunshine Laws
A grand jury investigating the expressway authority issued indictments today against former board member Scott Batterson; former state Rep. Chris Dorworth; and Dorworth's girlfriend Rebekah Hammond, a government-affairs liaison who works for FDOT, on violations of the state's public records law.
Batterson was also indicted by the grand jury on April 24 on three felonies, including bribery and soliciting compensation for official behavior. On those charges, he is accused of offering a $5 million a year authority contract to a consultant in exchange for hiring some of his friends. He is free on $3,000 bail.
The grand jury had met this morning and into the afternoon, with former board member Marco Pena testifying at least part of the morning.
Pena had already pleaded guilty to breaking the open records law.
Climate Change Denial
"I'm not a scientist" says Rick Scott, in unison with Marco Rubio. Presumably that means they can't judge or answer questions on climate change, but they do feel certain how it should not be dealt with. You're welcome.
Rick Scott Flying Under The Radar
Never mind that no other Florida Governor has done so, Rick Scott adds his travel details to the list of things that he feels are none of voter's business. He got rid of the state plane after taking office, and claimed his own plane would save the state money. But was that really the motivation, or was it an excuse to try and hide his travels from the public? While that plane may be his, or his wife's, who is paying the expenses for it? No idea, as he keeps most of that information under wraps. He says it's for "security reasons." Perhaps he means having the security of knowing taxpayers won't be able to tell what is and isn't determined to be state business by the governor himself?
The records should also show who is traveling with the governor, information that advocates said needs to be part of the public record.
“This is travel that has already occurred,” said Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a non-partisan open government advocacy group. “Our courts have said that exemptions to the right of access, we have a constitutional right of access to the records of government are to be strictly construed and narrowly applied.”
“It’s a question of oversight and accountability. It’s also a question of transparency,” said Petersen. “We want to know who the governor is meeting with, where the governor is going.”
Again, none of your business, according to Governor Transparency.
Blind Trust? Blind To Who, Exactly?
Another "first" for a governor in Florida is Rick Scott's famous "blind trust." You know, keeping his investments and assets a secret so as not to appear that he's benefiting from any legislation or actions he makes? It's supposed to be blind to Scott, but few believe this. Because taxpayers are blinded as well, a challenge was filed charging that it violates Sunshine laws:
A challenge to the blind trust law was brought two weeks ago by Jim Apthorp, a top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, the driving force behind the voter-approved 1976 "Sunshine Amendment" that made financial disclosure part of Florida's Constitution. Apthorp's lawsuit asked the Florida Supreme Court to require that Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's chief elections official and a Scott appointee, reject the qualifying papers of any candidate who had a blind trust.
More than a dozen Florida news organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Apthorp's lawsuit.
Unfortunately, a judge sided with Scott, saying there's no urgency to look into Scott's net worth of $83.8 million.
Nope. Transparency is merely a talking point for Rick Scott and any information Floridians get from him will be on a need to know basis determined by him. Apparently he feels there's little they need to know.
Interesting, considering his recent threats to sue over the conditions at VA hospitals, a suit he still hasn't filed. Interesting though, because one thing he did file was a Freedom Of Information request that appears to be politically motivated more than anything else.
But try and do the same in Florida and you'll be waiting for a long time, and if your request is honored, those public records are going to cost you.