June 12, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott orders flags flow at half-staff in memory of Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott ordered a state of emergency in Orange County and has ordered that flags throughout the state be flown at half-staff in memory of the Orlando shooting victims:

From Scott's order: In honor and remembrance of the victims of the act of terror committed in Orlando during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida.  The flags shall be lowered immediately and remain at half-staff until sunset, Thursday, June 16, 2016.

Here is Scott's statement:

“This is clearly an act of terror that happened in Orlando this morning.  It sickens me and makes me angry. Of course, this is a time of great tragedy, and in every tragedy, there is a flood of sadness, confusion and despair. But, this is an attack on our people.  An attack on Orlando.  An attack on Florida.  An attack on America.  An attack on all of us. 

“We still have a lot of questions that are unanswered. Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of everyone touched by this senseless tragedy. I want to urge the people of our state to pray for the victims, families of those who have been killed and wounded.  Pray for our city, state and country.

“We are a great state.  We are a diverse state and we have wonderful people here in Florida that will respond with dignity, strength and fortitude in the days ahead.

“To the people who did this or may be thinking about doing something similar: you don't want to commit an act of terror in our state.  In Florida, our justice system is swift and our penalties are severe.  We are at a 45-year crime low and proud to be a safe state for our 20 million residents and 100 million tourists.

“While our hearts are broken for the injuries and the loss of life that occurred here early this morning, I have every confidence that the Orlando community will come together and heal. We are a strong and resilient state.  We have declared a state of emergency in Orange County to ensure all resources are made available to handle this tragic incident.  We will also devote every and all available resources to help the city of Orlando heal.”

June 10, 2016

Activists blast Gov. Rick Scott and AG Pam Bondi for failing to condemn Trump's 'racist' comments

GOP 2016 TrumpDemocratic activists on Thursday blasted Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday for failing to condemn Donald Trump for what they consider "racist" comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel and urged them to refrain from using taxpayer dollars to travel to Tampa to appear on stage with the presumptive Republican nominee on Saturday.

"We understand it takes all the efforts of our taxpayer dollars to mobilize and move around our elected officials and when you stand up with those...who have been involved in racist comments, that speaks volumes,'' said Derrick McRae, pastor of The Experience Christian Center in Orlando in a call with reporters. "We should not be using state funds to help push a racist comment or a racist platform."

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Delray Beach, said he was especially outraged that Bondi and Scott, who were elected to uphold the laws of Florida, have refused to distance themselves from the comments or demand a public apology from Trump.

"As a Republican partisan, Pam Bondi has every right to support these raciest views; she has every right to participate in conference calls with the campaign,'' Deutch said. But as "the attorney general for one of our countries most diverse states she's got a moral obligation to...denounce the statements as Republican leaders across the country have done."

Bondi and Scott are scheduled to appear Saturday at an 11 a.m. rally with Trump at the Tampa Convention Center. Neither has criticized Trump for comments suggesting that because Curiel is of Mexican descent he could not be fair in his treatment of the pending lawsuit about the now-defunct Trump University. Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican parents.

After repeatedly citing Curiel’s ethnicity, Trump said Tuesday that his comments questioning whether a federal judge was biased because of his Mexican heritage have been “misconstrued” and that he didn’t mean to impugn the American justice system with his complaints or Mexican-Americans in general.

Immigration activist Maria Rodriguez also called out Helen Aguirre Ferré, a member of the board of trustees of Miami Dade College who was recently hired as Hispanic communications director of the Republican National Committee, for her failure to distance herself from Trump's comments.

"It's very disappointing to see Helen Aguirre Ferré use her name legitimize this very divisive campaign,'' she said. "It sanitizes the hate and divisiveness of this speech."

Rodriguez accused Trump of "successfully divided and bullied his way to the Republican nomination" and done it "through coded and blatant attacks on latinos."

Chastising Aguirre Ferré, she said, "it's a huge contradiction to serve in a Hispanic-serving institution and turn your back on the students who are being attacked by this candidate."

Aguirre Ferré told the Miami Herald she sees her role as  "in support of all the Republican candidates."

She has publicly criticized Trump in the past with #NeverTrump tweets, where she called him crazy and criticized Trump for inciting violence at his Chicago rally. Last month she told Univisión’s Al Punto Florida, “I do think there’s something that bothers him about strong and independent women.” She has since deleted her critical Trump tweets.

Rodriguez said she was "not surprised by Attorney General Bondi. "She has used every opportunity to undermine immigrant families and supported attacks on their families" by using tax money to file action aimed at blocking President Obama's executive order on immigration.

Deutch, a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, said Scott should "make it very clear the citizens of Florida should expect the governor of our state, our diverse state, who has endorsed Donald Trump, that he will rescind the endorsement until he apologizes and makes clear he will support a legal system that works for all Americans."

Photo: FILE - In this May 26, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Billings, Mont., Thursday, May 26, 2016. Trump says comments on judge 'misconstrued' as an attack against people of Mexican heritage.Brennan Linsley AP


Gov. Rick Scott selects members for Opa-locka emergency board

Gov. Rick Scott has named members to an emergency financial board to oversee finances of the city of Opa-locka, a Miami-Dade city in the midst of major financial problems and a corruption scandal.

The advisory board will include:

  • Melinda Miguel – Florida Chief Inspector General, Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott
  • Christian Weiss – Policy Coordinator, Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott
  • Kim Mills – Director of Auditing, Florida Housing Finance Corporation
  • Andrew Collins – Chief of Financial Monitoring and Accountability, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Angela Knecht – Program Administrator, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Marie Walker – Director of Auditing, Florida Department of Revenue
  • J.D. Patterson, Jr. – Former Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department (Retired)
  • Vernita Nelson – Assistant City Manager, City of Miami Gardens
  • Frank Rollason – City Manager, North Bay Village


June 06, 2016

Donald Trump, Rick Scott's jobs agency led PolitiFact Florida fact-checks in May

Gov. Rick Scott relishes the opportunity to promote Florida and try luring companies away from other states.

In May, the Republican took his job poaching tour to California. His jobs agency, Enterprise Florida, produced a radio ad attacking California, which is led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, for hiking the minimum wage.

Our fact-check of a claim in the ad about the wage hike was one of our most read fact-checks in May. Other fact-checks that drew in readers focused on claims about the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and by candidates vying to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Here’s a look at PolitiFact Florida’s most clicked fact-checks in May, counting down to the most popular.

June 05, 2016

June 03, 2016

Donald Trump to meet with Rick Scott in New York

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott will meet Monday in New York with Donald Trump, as the GOP nominee turns to the general election and crucial Florida.

"Governor Scott looks forward to meeting with Mr. Trump to discuss his campaigns in Florida and how he thinks Mr. Trump will have a big win in the state in November,” the governor's political consultant, Melissa Stone, said in a statement first obtained by the Washington Post.

Scott endorsed Trump the day after the Florida primary but had already made his support clear.

Appearing earlier today on Fox News, Scott said he and Trump spoke late last week.

"My goal is I could have hopefully a positive impact on how he wins Florida," Scott said. "He can win this state, he should win this state. I won both times, but you've got to work at it, you've got to go out there and make sure you get the votes, tell your story. It's still about jobs. That's why I think Donald Trump could have a big win because he's a business person that knows how to create jobs."

Michael Auslen contributed to this report.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 02, 2016

Florida declares financial emergency in Miami suburb of Opa-locka

via Michael Sallah and @jayhweaver

With Opa-locka on the edge of bankruptcy, Gov. Rick Scott declared a financial emergency for the city on Wednesday, calling for a special oversight board to take over the city’s finances and stem the bleeding that has led to crippling debts and cutbacks that have impacted every level of government.

The executive order comes just weeks after Miami-Dade County officials sent letters to the governor warning that the city could be shut down because of gaping budget shortfalls in the millions.

“It’s finally coming to end,” said Steve Shiver, a former city manager who called for the state to step in last year after turning up grave financial problems. “This is long, long overdue. It’s critical that they find the true financial picture of Opa-locka.”

The state will appoint members of the oversight board to monitor the spending of every city department — the second time the city of 16,000 residents has been placed under an emergency since 2002.

More here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott presses feds for Zika funds

via @dchangmiami

With two new Zika infections confirmed on Wednesday, including one in Miami-Dade and one pregnant woman in an unidentified county, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a letter to President Obama calling for immediate federal action to help state and local officials combat spread of the virus.

Florida has confirmed 162 Zika infections this year, including 38 cases involving pregnant women regardless of whether they showed symptoms. Miami-Dade has reported the most cases, with 49 people affected this year. Broward has reported 17 cases.

As Hurricane Season opened on June 1, ushering in the summer heat, heavy rainfall and more mosquitoes, Scott’s letter to the president expressed his “profound disappointment” that Congress had not yet fully funded Obama’s emergency request for $1.9 billion to prepare a response to the Zika virus.

“Florida needs action from the federal government now,” Scott wrote.

More here.

May 31, 2016

Prison investigators, now demoted, raise heat on agency with lawsuit and allegations of interference

Miguel note re AntonacciCharges of corruption against the Florida Department of Corrections escalated Tuesday as two demoted senior investigators filed a new lawsuit, accusing the agency of retaliating against them for alleging cover-ups, inmate abuse and political interference on behalf of a company whose lead lobbyist became the governor’s general counsel.

In the 544-page compliant filed Tuesday in circuit court in Leon County, Doug Glisson and John Ulm allege that their bosses systematically tried to discredit them and set them up for demotions by concocting charges, violating agency procedures and even forging signatures. 

They claim that the governor’s office has wielded influence over agency investigations and point to both the governor’s former top lawyer, Pete Antonacci, and his chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, as being involved.

Glisson and Ulm, both senior investigators in the Office of Inspector General, were demoted in May after spending the past two years speaking out. In testimony before a state Senate committee last year, they alleged that their boss, then-Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, covered up evidence of inmate abuse, dismissed allegations of impropriety by those close to him and failed to properly police violent corrections officers. They are asking the court to order their reinstatement and for the state to pay all attorney fees and lost wages.

FDC spokesman Alberto Moscoso said the agency would not comment “on active or pending litigation [that] involves the agency or any of our current or former members.”

The dozens of supporting documents filed with the court include copies of agency reports, emails and investigations that show the agency conducted a series of internal investigations into Glisson and Ulm. The inspectors allege the investigations were assigned to officers who took directions from Beasley or had conflicts of interest.

Glisson and Ulm also allege that Beasley ordered Ulm to close an investigation into the department’s former food vendor, U.S. Foods, after the company was accused of serving inmates tainted meat and engaging in deceitful billing.

In a July 2015 letter to Beasley, Ulm suggested that U.S. Foods’ former lobbyist — Pete Antonacci, the governor’s general counsel, who now serves as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District — should be questioned as should “conspirators and persons of interest” in the case. Ulm believed that the case should be referred to the federal government “because of the vast amounts of federal money involved” and because, he said, lobbyists were being paid to try to keep the U.S. Foods contracts in effect in Florida despite the allegations.

His email noted that after Antonacci went to work for the governor, U.S. Foods did not hire another lobbyist to be the liaison with the department, suggesting it didn’t need to because of Antonacci’s position of influence.

“This capital connection could come back to cause an embarrassment to [FDC] Secretary [Julie] Jones, as well as the entire Department,’’ Ulm wrote. “I would like you to reconsider your position and directive not to investigate or seek a referral to another agency concerning the various corporations who I now believe fronted for U.S. Foods.” He also indicated he was seeking whistleblower protection. Story here. 

Download Glisson Ulm v DOC complaint

Download Ulm letter re US Foods

Download Miguel notes

Download Ulm letter to Beasley

Photo: Note to the file from the governor’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, indicates she wanted to issue her report but was being told by the governor’s office to wait until after the 2014 election.

May 24, 2016

Anonymous takes aim at Rick Scott, who focuses on Everglades restoration instead


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been asked a great deal of questions, but perhaps none quite like the one he got from a Miami television reporter Tuesday: What were his thoughts on a video from the group Anonymous calling for the Republican governor to be impeached or else for him to resign?

The video, posted on Anonymous' Facebook page earlier in the day ("Hello, citizens of the world," it begins), accused Scott of working to "destroy the great state of Florida's ocean wildlife" by allowing polluted waters from Lake Okeechobee to run off into the Atlantic Ocean. The masked figure with a disguised, robotic voice also charged the governor with "lining his pockets" with support from Big Sugar. 

The video was first reported by Political Fix Florida.

Scott, speaking to reporters after a ceremonial bill signing at the Department of Children and Families office in Miami, ignored the part of the question about Anonymous and instead focused on Everglades restoration efforts.

"Here's what's exciting that's happened in the last five years," he said, rattling off a list of accomplishments from settling lawsuits with federal agencies to appropriating $880 million from the state budget to improve water quality. 

"So we're clearly heading in the right direction, and this state can be proud of what we're doing."

It's the federal government, Scott countered, that "has not paid up their portion" of Everglades projects.

UPDATE: The governor's office said Wednesday the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was made aware of the Anonymous video. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Miami Herald in an email that it has seen the video.

"FDLE always maintains operational awareness, but we have not seen evidence of a threat related to the video," she wrote.