Florida Democrats are raising anew an issue from the 2010 election by demanding Gov. Rick Scott release a deposition in a lawsuit in which a walk-in clinic company he ran was accused of fraud.
Democrats including likely nominee for governor Charlie Crist already have made a massive 1990s Medicare fraud case against Scott’s former hospital chain, Columbia/HCA, an issue in this race, along with his using the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination in testimony, citing the Medicare fraud investigation.
They contend the fraud charges against Scott are still relevant even though he was elected in 2010 after those charges were publicly debated.
“He has failed to be transparent with Floridians,” said Allison Tant, state Democratic Party chairwoman, in a conference call with reporters today. “His history of deception goes back to before his time as governor. What is it that is so secret that he is trying to hide?”
Republican Party spokeswoman Susan Hepworth responded that the issue was nothing but CXrist “drumming up old, failed attacks” and criticized Crist for failing to release his wife’s tax returns at the same time he released his own.
“Charlie Crist’s campaign of constant distraction and mudslinging is an attempt to hide his own problems with ethics and transparency,” she said.
In 2010, the issue was pressed harder by Republicans than Democrats, as allies of Scott’s primary opponent, Bill McCollum, used it in their campaign. McCollum ran ads demanding Scott release the deposition, and the Democratic Party’s web site on the issue features a quote from former Republican House Speaker Larry Cretul.
In the Solantic case, a physician working for Jacksonville-based Solantic accused the company of naming him medical director of six walk-in clinics in the Jacksonville area without his knowledge or authorization, to satisfy a new state regulation that such clinics must have physician medical directors.
Scott gave a deposition in the case just days before he announced his candidacy for governor in April, 2010. The case was then settled with a confidentiality agreement, and the deposition was never made public.
Critics have contended in the past that Scott’s involvement in the company could create a conflict of interest because it could seek state contracts under legislative initiatives backed by Scott, including ordering drug testing for state workers and welfare recipients and handling Medicaid clients under a new managed care plan.
Shortly after taking office, Scott transferred his stock in the company to a trust belonging to his wife. He has since said the he has no involvement with the company and that the deposition is “a private matter” and he won’t release it.
But Tant said on the call that it made little difference when Scott transferred his Solantic stock into his wife’s trust. She said the party is developing evidence of several instances in which Scott’s own blind trust and his wife’s “have made exactly the same purchases.”
Ann Scott’s trust is revocable, meaning she can get money out of it when she wishes. During the 2010 election, she gave millions from the trust to Scott’s campaign committee.