Friday afternoon, Gary Fineout of the Associated Press broke the story of another scandal that raised a new round of questions about the integrity of Rick Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth. The scandal centers around the Governor’s commitment on Monday of $200 million to All Aboard Florida, owned by Hollingsworth’s former employer. From the AP story:
Hollingsworth, who worked on Scott’s transition team in late 2010, exchanged several text messages with Scott’s deputy chief of staff shortly before the All Aboard Florida project was publicly announced. Hours before the release came out he texted Carrie O’Rourke and told her she would get a copy of it in advance. “If you see any hiccups, let me know,” Hollingsworth texted. “Thanks for all your help.”
But that was back in 2012, before Hollingsworth was hired as Rick Scott’s chief of staff (and before he was caught lying about having a college degree from Alabama). When confronted by questions from the Associated Press about his lobbying efforts on behalf of All Aboard Florida, Hollingsworth dispatched the Governor’s communications team and Florida Department of Transportation officials to defend him in the press:
Monica Russell, a spokeswoman for the Scott administration, said this week that Hollingsworth never discussed the $200 million spending request with the governor. Russell said Hollingsworth didn’t even see the press release announcing Scott’s support for the depot.
Florida Department of Transportation officials also maintain that Hollingsworth, who has been Scott’s chief of staff since July 2012, was not involved in any discussions about the project.
That’s nice of them to say. But of course, we should keep in mind that FDOT officials and the governor’s communications staff all technically report to Hollingsworth himself. So, of course, they aren’t about to say anything that could cost them their jobs.
The real question that Hollingsworth or Rick Scott should answer is this:
Is there any evidence, such as an emails or a legal opinion, which demonstrates that Hollingsworth took appropriate steps to erect a firewall that would protect him and his boss from the appearance of impropriety?
Obviously, there is no evidence that Hollingsworth acted in such an ethical manner. Because if such evidence existed, he would have turned it over to Gary Fineout long before such a damaging story went out on the AP wire.
Perhaps most telling is Governor Rick Scott’s own reaction when given the chance to defend Hollingsworth:
Scott told the AP on Thursday that the request from the airport “made sense” because Orlando is growing and because he wants to attract more tourists to the state. He did not answer when asked if he had spoken to Hollingsworth about the project.