Gov. Rick Scott drawn deeper into records lawsuit

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A bitter public records dispute is now forcing Florida Gov. Rick Scott to dip into his own pocket, and may force him to testify on his own behalf before next month’s election.

Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, who clashed with Scott even before he took office, wants information on private Google email accounts that he says were used by the Scott administration to sidestep state law. A Florida judge sided with Andrews, but now Scott has hired lawyers to fight the request in California.

Scott’s office initially hired an outside law firm and state records show that the administration signed two state contracts worth $110,000 with Tanner-Bishop to fight the effort to find out about the email accounts. Andrews wants information on when the accounts were established and by whom. It does not require that any actual emails be turned over.

But now Scott is paying the firm of Dean Mead out of his own pocket to continue the battle. That firm, which includes lobbyists and a former top official under Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, is representing both Scott and two former aides who also had Google email accounts.

A Scott spokesman said that Scott’s private attorney is responsible for handling his “private affairs.” Initially the governor’s office refused to say who was paying Scott’s legal bills or whether the governor was getting outside help to pay the expenses.

The decision by Scott, who is a multimillionaire, to dip into his own pocket comes as Andrews served Scott a subpoena requiring him to answer questions next week for a deposition.

John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, blasted Andrews and said he was on a “fishing expedition for information that is not a public record.”

“It’s no secret that this case, and its multiple companions, is simply Andrews pursuing revenge for his personal grudge against the Cabinet and state government,” said Tupps in an email.

Back during the 2010 race, Andrews unsuccessfully sued to try to unseal a deposition Scott gave in a civil lawsuit involving a chain of health care clinics the Naples Republican started. The deposition was given six days before Scott began his race for governor but he steadfastly refused to release it.

Andrews is currently suing Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi over whether they hid records related to a dispute over land near the governor’s mansion.

Andrews wants to buy the land since his law office is located on it. The Scott administration wants the land as part of a plan to turn the adjacent historic home of former Gov. LeRoy Collins into a museum. Andrews contends state officials were not interested in the property until Scott found out that he was involved. Andrews won his initial lawsuit, but the case is being appealed.

Scott has insisted that he does not use a Google email account for state business, but on at least one occasion Scott forwarded a 2013 email from that account to his regular state government account. It showed his former chief of staff recommending to Scott how to handle the search for a new lieutenant governor.

The Associated Press in August asked for copies of all emails from the account but has yet to get a response from the Scott administration about the request.

Republished with permission of Associated Press.