Gov. Rick Scott refuses to testify in records lawsuit

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Gov. Rick Scott is holding firm against testifying in a bitter public records lawsuit.

A Tallahassee attorney asked Scott to appear Friday for a deposition. Steven Andrews wants information about private Google email accounts set up by the governor and two former aides. He maintains they were used by the Scott administration to sidestep the state’s open records law.

Scott did not show up and was campaigning instead in South Florida.

Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair called the effort to force the deposition a “blatantly political stunt” and said it was being “coordinated with the Charlie Crist campaign.” He said that Andrews cannot just require Scott to show up for a deposition.

“A deposition is not scheduled just because a Tallahassee trial lawyer clicks his heels and tries to make it so,” Blair said.

Andrews is suing over records related to a dispute over land near the governor’s mansion. Andrews wants information on when the accounts were established and by whom. He is not asking that any actual emails be turned over.

A Florida judge sided with Andrews and said that he could ask Google for the information about the email accounts, but now Scott has hired lawyers in California to fight the request.

Andrews insisted on Friday that it was Scott who “did pick this fight with me” and that he does not have a grudge against the incumbent governor.

Back during the 2010 race, Andrews unsuccessfully sued to try to unseal a deposition Scott gave in a 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.

The lawsuits started after Andrews wanted to buy land on which his law office is located. 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. Scott’s general counsel said the emails are currently being reviewed to see if any of them mention public business.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.