Is Governor Scott breaking the blind trust law?
By Roger Caldwell
There is a veil of secrecy and mystery that permeates through Scott’s campaign and his time in office. Governor Scott does not want Floridians to know how much he is worth, because there is possibility of a conflict of interest in his business dealings.
As he flies around the state and country in his private plane, no one knows his schedule and his destinations. The Democrats have slapped the governor with three ethics and election law complains by not fully reporting his campaign use of an aircraft. The jet’s owner, Columbia Collier Management of Naples has only one officer, which is Scott’s wife Ann.
The complaints were filed by Ron Meyer, a Tallahassee lawyer and a Democrat who practices election law. “I wanted to hold Rick Scott accountable to not be above the law,” says Alejandro Victoria a 22 year old graduate of FSU. He initiated the complaint and he believes that our governor must be held to a higher standard.
In 2013, Governor Scott signed a bill that allows elected officials to put financial assets in blind trusts that do not offer detailed public disclosure of their holdings. Last week Jim Apthorp filed a lawsuit challenging the law, which he believes violates the Sunshine Law, which he helped to spearheaded in 1976. At that time, he was former chief of staff to the late Governor Reubin Askew.
Jim Apthorp says the lawsuit is not partisan and not aimed at our governor, who happens to be the only elected official with a blind trust. The Sunshine Amendment required elected officials to disclose their assets and liabilities as a safeguard against conflict of interest. Apthorp argues that the law passed in 2013 violates the “full and public disclosure” language in the Sunshine Amendment.
The suit has the backing of the First Amendment Foundation, the League of Women Voters and half a dozen media organizations. The Republicans think this lawsuit is politically motivated and the Democrats are out to create confusion in Scott’s campaign.
“Governor Scott did everything that the ethics commission and the Legislature asked him to do. So I don’t think he’s done anything wrong here. The problem is that the statute is not constitutional,” says Jim Apthorp.
The lawsuit is in the Florida Supreme Court, and Apthrop’s petition asks the high court to prohibit Secretary of State Ken Detzner from accepting the qualifying papers of any candidate who has placed finances in a blind trust. The seven-member Supreme Court has to act fast, because the weeklong candidate qualifying period opens June 16.
Governor Scott and fellow Republicans in the Florida Legislature want the State Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit. The Supreme Court could issue a ruling, dismiss the lawsuit or transfer the case to a circuit judge in Tallahassee.