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Scott’s blind trust proposal OK’d by ethics panel

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Without comment, the Florida Commission on Ethics approved Friday Gov. Rick Scott’s intention to put his wide-ranging financial assets into a blind trust steered by money managers independent of the governor.

The commission accepted a recommendation from its executive director that Scott would be shielded from potential violations of state conflict-of-interest laws by taking creating the trust. Scott’s holdings are mostly in large publicly traded companies but attorneys for the governor also provided specific details of five other investments with clear Florida ties.

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Scott’s blind trust plan goes before ethics panel

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott’s vast financial holdings have continued to draw heat but today, Florida’ s chief executive is likely to draw support from the state’s Commission on Ethics for steps he’s taken to create some separation from his multi-million dollars investments.

Commissioners will review a draft opinion from the panel’s attorneys that endorse Scott’s efforts to transfer his investments to a blind trust steered by money managers independent of the governor.

 When he filed papers as a candidate last year, Scott put his net worth at $218 million and subsequently spent more than $73 million out of his own pocket in winning the governor’s race.

“Under the circumstances presented, we conclude that the governor’s passive investments in these large national corporations and investment funds do not create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest with his public duties,”  the commission’s executive director, Phil Claypool, wrote last month in a recommended order to be reviewed today by the panel.

Scott was slated to sell what has emerged as his most controversial holding, Solantic, the urgent care company, that attracted criticism for potentially standing to profit from health initiatives he had advanced as governor.

Scott acknowledged last month he was selling his family’s 70 percent ownership of the urgent care chain he co-founded in 2001 for less than the firm’s reported $62 million net worth. The deal was expected to close by April 29, and Scott has said nothing publicly about the transaction.

Most of Scott’s other holdings are in large, publicly traded companies. According to documents submitted to the ethics panel, Scott’s invested in four holding companies that have Florida operations.

 Three are in the propane and natural gas transportation business and the fourth is Republic Services, the nation’s second largest waste-hauling company. Scott also is a limited partner in a New York headquartered investment fund that has a controlling interest in 21st Century Oncology, cancer radiation centers which operate in Florida.

Richard Coates, Scott’s Tallahassee lawyer, acknowledged to the commission in a letter that state law recognizes that investments are considered to be a contractual relationship. And state ethics laws bar public officials from having contract dealings with a business regulated by their agency.

“On the other hand, we are aware of no precedent where the commission has found a conflict of interest based on such an attenuated and speculative relationship between the official’s public office and the investments in question,” Coates wrote.

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