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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rick Scott is our own man of mystery, Austin Powers without the hair mop and dance moves.

No Florida governor has ever operated with such jet-setting stealth, concealing so many details of his daily travels and contacts. He says he’s out working nonstop for the citizens of his adopted state, yet his official schedule is full of more gaps than the Nixon transcripts.

Occasionally, Floridians catch an intriguing glimpse of Scott’s shadow life. His secret hunting trip to a Texas game ranch courtesy of U.S. Sugar had been kept under wraps for more than a year before it was sniffed out by reporters from the Tampa Bay Times.

The governor still refuses to divulge who went with him, or whom he met. One known fact is that U.S. Sugar, an epic polluter of the Everglades, has donated more than $534,000 to Scott’s reelection campaign so far.

His recent predecessors regularly made public their detailed travel and work records, including political fundraising trips. Up until Scott took office, it was generally accepted that Floridians have a right to know where their governor is going, and why.

Whenever Lawton Chiles took a private plane to a campaign stop, his office released not only the names but also the phone numbers of other passengers on the aircraft. Both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, who’s running against Scott this year, often provided lists of who attended private meetings with them, and what subjects were discussed.

Since his arrival in Tallahassee, Scott has promised “transparency,” and on his first day signed an executive order restarting the Office of Open Government, which is supposed to help Floridians gain easier access to public records.

However, Scott’s concept of a public record is narrow, to put it kindly.

By using his own Cessna Citation instead of a state jet, he definitely saves the taxpayers money. He also conveniently shields himself from potentially embarrassing inquiries regarding his whereabouts.

The tail numbers of his plane have been removed from flight-tracking websites, so you can’t see where it’s heading or where it’s been. Scott and his staff won’t disclose even the most basic travel information — destination, times of departure and arrival — until days after the trip, if then.

Key details are typically blacked out, using a public-records exemption that was intended to shield “surveillance techniques” of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE provides security staff for the governor.

His secrecy obsession policy extends beyond his travel plans.

As part of his initial push for transparency, Scott launched of Project Sunburst, which was supposed to makes available his state emails and those of his executive staff.

It would have been good for open government, if only Scott’s chief of staff (and then his successor) hadn’t ordered all employees to use private emails and cellphone texts when discussing sensitive matters.

The objective was to hide important policy-making from outside scrutiny, reducing Project Sunburst to a farce.

A suit by Tallahassee lawyer Steven Andrews has revealed that private emails were used by Scott’s top staff, and even his wife, to coordinate a $5 million project to re-manicure the entrance of the governor’s mansion and purchase nearby real estate for a “governor’s park.”

The planning was being done on state time, and the Republican-controlled Legislature obligingly allotted $2.5 million for the makeover.

For the rest of the funds, a “Governor’s Mansion Foundation” hit up major companies eager to stay in Scott’s good graces — including Florida Power and Light, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the GEO Group, which operates two state prisons.

“U.S. Sugar just came thru w check for $100k!!!” burbled the mansion curator to Scott’s deputy chief of staff, via private email.

A judge’s order was necessary before this interesting message and others were uncovered. It’s a matter of significant public interest when corporations that rely on state approval shower hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sitting governor’s pet project.

You think U.S. Sugar or FPL gives a rat’s azalea about the landscaping at the mansion? They gave the money for the same reason they write campaign checks — to purchase favor.

Scott won’t talk about this because he is, after all, a man of mystery.

Now you see him, now you don’t.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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  • Dominick Vila

    Of course Gov. Scott won’t tell anything about his past, other than what his political strategists suggest that is. For people like Scott, their nefarious past was the work of the Devil, and since confession took care of that, it is no longer relevant or anyone’s business as far as he is concerned.

  • Ron Silver

    What do you expect from someone who committed millions of dollars in Medicare fraud and yet the idiots in this state elected him – at a time of Obama backlash and we all know why.

    • midway54

      This is not to mention two other darlings of the rednecks and dupes in plentiful supply: West and Rubio. Mercifully, West is gone and now at Fox “News” a proper venue for his style of rightwing lunacy. Our hairless cipher in Tallahassee needs to get soundly stomped in the election, Rubio, a disgusting opportunist serving the plutocrats needs to get tossed out of office.

      • Ron Silver

        Your comment is not midway – its all the way spot-on!

  • Orlando Chris

    Why vote between 2 known liars? Florida, we are fortunate enough not to
    be stuck picking one liar or the other this time. We actually have an
    alternative. Take advantage of the opportunity. Adrian Wyllie deserves
    my vote. He is a honest average Floridian just as you and I , that is
    willing to stand up and do something for the interest of all of us here
    in Florida. The other candidates both Republican and Democrat are owned
    and controlled by special interest, like puppets and will lie to your
    face to gain your vote, then continue the same old agenda that we
    complain about year after year. Time to get off this merry-go-round,
    election after election, thinking it will be any different. Take a
    stand, vote for the candidate that loves this state and is willing to
    take time out of his life, effort and money to SERVE the people of
    Florida and stop voting for these ‘paid for’ career politicians that are
    only out for money and fame and have zero interest in us Floridians.
    Even if it’s just for honesty alone, vote for Adrian Wyllie instead of
    the other two (Scott/Crist) which are proven liars. The choice is yours
    and yours alone, if you want the same old corruption and slap in the
    face, go ahead and vote for one of the two puppets (Scott/Crist) OR do
    what is right for our (yours and your children’s) future and vote for
    Adrian Wyllie. Support him by donating to his campaign, spreading the
    word and contribute to the super brochure program which I think is very
    powerful. Visit his website today.

    • adler56

      That’s a wasted vote and you know it- you’re either paid by Scott or Christ backers but we need to stick with the lesser of two evils- Christ- to avoid 4 more years of skinhead Scott stealing Florida blind.

      • RickAdams650

        have fun sticking up for criminals

  • adler56

    WE need to copy Chicago this November. Vote early and vote often to get skinhead ugly Scott back on his own dime.

  • johninPCFL

    Fortunately, a good chunk of Scott’s golden parachute from his medicare thefts was spent buying the office the first time. We can only hope he’s left broke this time around.

  • dana becker

    He is a known thief. What other kind of behavior would one expect from someone with such low moral character? A Mother Theresa?

  • Whatmeworry

    The entire story is utter hogwash

    • Independent1

      What??? Just like EVERYTHING YOU POST!!!!!!!!

      Go fly a kite!! We don’t converse with mental midgets here!!!!

      • Whatmeworry

        ahuck ahuck thanks Goofy


    I remember the first official act Rick Scott put into play was to take 3 percent of any public and state employees paycheck in order to build up the state pension fund.Still not sure whats happened with that.I know the courts ruled in favor of this law,have not heard how much the pension fund has benefited from this.Does any one know? what i do know is many people that work in the public sector will still vote for him regardless of the fact he took money out of their pockets. I cant explain it.