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Scott to unload Solantic amid ethics questions

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Republican Rick Scott has agreed to sell his family’s ownership of Solantic, the chain of urgent care health clinics miring him in conflict of interest questions, a spokeswoman for the governor said Wednesday.

Amy Graham said Scott expects to complete the sale by April 29 to Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a New York City-based private equity investment firm that is a minority shareholder in the company. Graham said Scott is selling his family’s 70 percent share for less than $60 million.

During his campaign for governor, Scott valued his share of the company at $62 million.

But in the deal, Scott apparently has had to walk away from his earlier pledge to bar Solantic from soliciting state contracts.

Brian Burgess, Scott’s communications director, said Wednesday that while the governor sought the prohibition, he has learned state law disallows such standards.

“Legal counsel has told us you can’t prevent people from bidding on contracts, Florida law takes precedent over any business agreement,” Burgess said.

But Burgess added, “The governor recognizes that he has to remain beyond reproach on this stuff.”

Scott’s interest in Solantic has clouded the governor during his first three months as chief executive, with concerns spiking after he called for drug-testing of state employees, a service the company provides.  Legislative proposals to overhaul Medicaid, which Scott also supports, could have caused the governor’s public role to collide with his private interests.

Scott said he has tried to be “transparent” on matters involving Solantic. Before he took office, Scott representatives met with Florida Commission on Ethics in December, a meeting at which no public records were created.

 Shortly after that meeting, the governor-elect’s Solantic shares were quietly moved into the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust, his wife’s account.

Let’s get to work — in Scott’s office

Monday, April 4th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Times are tough in state government — with an almost $3.8 billion budget shortfall prompting wholesale spending reductions and job cuts.

But Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that he’s added two new members to his staff, along with new duties for a couple more.

Lane Wright, formerly managing editor of the online Sunshine State News, has been named Scott’s press secretary. Current press secretary Amy Graham has been shifted to traveling press secretary.

Wright formerly was a TV reporter with West Palm Beach’s WTVX-TV, where he also was newsroom manager.

Also joining the Scott office is Karen Giorno, a former advance person for former First Lady Laura Bush. Giorno will be Scott’s director of external affairs.

A Scott deputy, Spencer Geissinger is checking out of Tallahassee — heading to Washington, D.C., as the governor’s director of federal affairs. Geissinger had been Scott’s campaign scheduling chief and directed his inauguration.

Geissinger is a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush.

Bondi’s move on rights continues to draw pushback

Friday, February 25th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Sen. Arthenia Joyner of  Tampa and Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston on Friday renewed Democratic call for Attorney General Pam Bondi to drop her push to tighten Florida’s standards for restoring civil rights to felons after they completed their sentences.

 ”With a staggering unemployment rate of 12 percent, I’d think the attorney general would want to support any effort to help Floridians who have fully paid their debts to society, to find work,”  Rich said.

In a shocker for civil rights advocates and Democrats, Attorney General Pam Bondi is looking to undo Florida’s limited automatic restoration of rights for felons. Bondi said she was likely to have a proposal to put before Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet next month.

“I don’t believe any felon should have an automatic restoration of rights,” the Republican Cabinet member told reporters Thursday morning. “I believe you should have to ask, and there should be an appropriate waiting period” of three to five years.

Joyner, though, said she felt Bondi’s move was aimed at placating tough-on-crime tea party advocates.

“From fighting Floridians access to family doctors, to withholding civil rights, it seems the Republican politicians are more interestedin hurting Florida than helping her,” Joyner said Friday.

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