Scott gets okay to record airport welcomeby John Kennedy | June 15th, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott was given the go-ahead Friday to record visitor greetings on shuttles at Tampa International Airport by the Florida Commission on Ethics, which dismissed the idea that the messages amounted to a prohibited gift.
Scott’s office had requested the commission review. State law bars gifts from agencies like the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which employs executive branch lobbyists. Scott’s office said the governor didn’t think the shuttle recordings would violate a “common-sense” definition of a gift, and the commission unanimously agreed.
There was some discussion, however.
Commissioner Edwin Scales said he didn’t want to set a tone where public officials would feel compelled to seek approval for small-scale appearances. He said he didn’t see “p.r. as a gift.”
Commissioner Morgan Bentley also said that when President Obama delivers the State of the Union address over television networks, he’s drawing free publicity. But that shouldn’t be considered a gift, he said.
“It’s bizarre that a public official could be considered getting a gift, just for doing his job,” Bentley said.
But the commission’s attorney, Chris Anderson, said such matters should continue to be subject to review on a case-by-case basis. There are times, he warned, that free airtime, invites or appearances can be considered a gift from a political benefactor — not just a freebie aimed at helping foster economic development or other broad goals.
Scott’s airport message on shuttle buses is to be recorded at the governor’s office, his staff said. The script: “This is Florida Gov. Rick Scott and I’d like to welcome you to Tampa Bay, a great place to live, work and play. Thank you for choosing Tampa International Airport. Enjoy your stay.”
Departing passengers will get a recorded “thank you” from Scott, who will urge them to “return soon.”
Since Scott’s office submitted the issue to the ethics panel, his office has been contacted by a marketing company that has said it could provide a holographic image of the governor that could greet airport visitors. The governor’s office has not yet responded to the pitch.