Over Gov. Scott’s objections, ousted prisons chief gives deposition in prison privatization lawsuitby Dara Kam | September 26th, 2011
Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s attempts to quash his testimony, former Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Buss this afternoon spent two-and-a-half hours answering questions under oath for a lawsuit about a prison privatization effort ordered by lawmakers this spring.
Lawyers for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, who filed the lawsuit against Scott’s administration, had sought Buss’s testimony before a hearing slated for Thursday morning. The hearing will focus on the PBA’s allegation that the privatization of 29 prisons from Manatee County to Indian River County south to the Florida Keys was unconstitutional because it was included at the last minute in the must-pass state budget, which the PBA contends is intended to deal strictly with spending rather than policy.
Reached by telephone, Buss refused to comment.
Last week, the First District Court of Appeals ordered that Buss give his deposition, upholding a lower court decision that the ousted secretary – fired by Scott last month – had unique information related to the privatization effort. Both courts rejected arguments by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawyers, representing Scott, that high-ranking officials – almost always named as defendants in court cases – should be immune from having to testify when information is available elsewhere.
The PBA contends its lawyers have been unable to get the information they need from e-mails requested from the corrections department.
PBA executive director Matt Puckett said that lawmakers’ gave Buss explicit directions on how the privatization would be handled but at the same time gave him carte blanche over a separate privatization of all of the agency’s health care services for inmates.
“He just wasn’t consulted,” Puckett said.