By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Update: The Palm Beach Post reports that Gov. Rick Scott has a deal to sell his shares in Solantic for less than $60 million to the company’s minority shareholder, private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe of New York.
Gov. Rick Scott’s steely smile, perpetually flashed as he exercises the politics of a thousand merciless cuts, seems incongruous at best, pitiless at worst.
Cut a few thousand state jobs. Smile.
Wipe out programs for people with autism, cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome. Smile.
Hand over a $78,000-a-year job to a disreputable conservative bureaucrat — without posting the job or interviewing any other candidates. Smile.
Push for a 10 percent cut in funding for public education. Smile.
For some, his uncompromising style and smile have become sinister to the point that detractors have taken to giving the man with the bald pate an unflattering super-villain moniker: Gov. Skeletor.
Well, after three months — and polls showing Florida voters unhappy with him and his policies — are we beginning to see a crack in the super-villain’s steely veneer?
The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Scott is trying to sell off his $62 million stake in Solantic — a group of urgent-care clinics that also perform drug testing.
That’s a handy business model considering Scott is pushing to privatize state health programs and has mandated drug testing for state employees and welfare applicants.
Ever since that seemingly ethical lapse was first pointed out, Scott has maintained that he had nothing to do with Solantic. That’s because just before his inauguration, Scott signed the shares over to his wife.
Now, in most states, such a transfer of convenience would be unethical, if not outright illegal. But in Florida, Scott calls it “transparency.” And lawyers — insert joke here — seemed to agree. Is this a great state, or what?
After weeks of being blasted in newspaper articles and blogs about the unseemly relationship. After protests outside some Solantic clinics. After an ethics complaint …
… Well, if you click on the last link, you might notice that in the photo accompanying that story, Scott wasn’t smiling.
But don’t get too excited. His spokesman said it’s darn tough for the governor to divest himself of all those shares in a private company. Particularly when others, aware of his predicament, aren’t willing to pay top dollar for Scott’s Solantic shares.
“I get that people think there’s a conflict, but I don’t get what people think should be done about it,” said Scott’s communication director, Brian Burgess.
Well, Brian, I have a revolutionary idea.
How about selling it, or putting it in a blind trust, before he took office?
But since Scott didn’t, well, maybe he’ll just have to make a million or two less as a result of that mistake.
It reminds me of a word that he likes to toss around when it comes to teachers, state and county employees, and the poor: Accountability.