“First, I want to be clear on a critical point: the All Aboard Florida proposal is a private sector venture to construct, operate and maintain a passenger rail system. There will be no state subsidies for this project.” – Governor Rick Scott, in letter to All Aboard Florida executives on 6/19/2014.
“The State has no involvement in this project.” – Governor Rick Scott, in canned email response to opponents of All Aboard Florida.
Both of the blatantly false statements above are direct quotes from Gov. Scott about his alleged lack of involvement in “All Aboard Florida,” the beleaguered for-profit rail project unquestionably championed by Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth.
The Governor’s statements are in direct opposition to a growing body of evidence that someone in the Governor’s Office has fast-tracked the for-profit All Aboard Florida project. Now that the controversy is growing, Scott has issued those statements in a bid to distance himself from the scandal, but it may be too late.
Last weekend, news broke that Scott chief-of-staff Adam Hollingsworth helped to arrange secret meetings between AAF and the governor and key advisors, in direct violation of a voluntary ban Hollingsworth signed prohibiting him from lobbying the governor or his staff on behalf of outside interests.
Hollingsworth told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times and Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News that he signed a “firewall letter” prohibiting him from participating in meetings, discussions or decisions relating to the for-profit rail project. But despite signing the letter, Hollingsworth has nevertheless constructed a network of trusted cronies to circumvent the so-called “firewall” and form a direct information pipeline from All Aboard Florida straight into the Governor’s Office. Here are a few of the key players:
1) Ananth Prasad, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation – In late 2010, Hollingsworth, as the key advisor to Governor-elect Rick Scott on transportation issues, helped hand-pick Prasad and install him as the top official of FDOT, which has greenlighted over $200 million in state taxpayer funding for All Board Florida and worked non-stop to help the private company land $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. Prasad also fast-tracked the sale of right-of-way permits only 90 days after Hollingsworth became chief of staff to the governor. Hollingsworth’s former employer was the only bidder.
2) Lynette Ivy, Executive Assistant, Parallel Infrastructure – Ivy served as executive assistant to Hollingsworth when he worked in the Jacksonville Mayor’s office. In early 2011, public records show, Ivy’s name appeared in an email chain linking her and Hollingsworth to a draft letter from Rick Scott to US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing concerns about federal funding for High Speed Rail. A few months later, when Hollingsworth took a job as CEO of Parallel Infrastructure (one of the companies helping push for All Aboard Florida), Hollingsworth brought Ivy with him to the new company as an executive assistant. According to ZoomInfo, she still works for Parallel Infrastructure.
3) Rachel Cone, Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the Governor – Cone was hand-picked as one of Hollingsworth’s top aides when he became chief of staff to Rick Scott. Not only did she work alongside Hollingsworth in the Jacksonville mayor’s office, but Hollingsworth tasked Cone, one of his most trusted aides, with direct oversight of the Florida Department of Transportation and the All Aboard Florida project.
Together, these three people, who owe Adam Hollingsworth their jobs, form a direct information nexus from All Aboard Florida’s corporate office to the Governor’s inner-circle, and all have worked to fast-track the private rail project on behalf of Hollingsworth’s former employer, despite the governor’s public statements that “the state has no involvement in the project,” and that “there will be no state subsidies for the project.”
Either Rick Scott is lying, or he’s being lied to.