Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Conflict Of Interest Questions Swirl Around Rick Scott, Solantic

Rick Scott and Ann Scott

With questions already swirling about his refusal to allow a legislatively-approved pill mill database to go into existence – even as the company he co-founded, Solantic, operates clinics that sell cheap prescription drugs, Florida Gov. Rick Scott makes another questionable move: transferring his interest in Solantic … to his wife.
Scott, who presided over the company that perpetrated the greatest Medicare fraud in U.S. history, has also appointed a former executive with that company, Columbia/HCA, to administer a trust related to his in-house share transfer. As the Palm Beach Post reports:

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott reorganizes health agencies, cuts spending and pushes for new free-market health policies, his ownership of Solantic, the urgent care chain, increasingly poses conflict of interest questions.
Solantic co-founder Karen Bowling says Scott has taken steps to distance himself from the chain. He stopped regular business calls with her after he was elected.
“I don’t talk to him anymore. Not since November. Really not much since April,” Bowling said.
Scott left the privately held company’s board of directors in January 2010, during his campaign.
But the most important step the governor must take to avoid a conflict of interest, some ethics experts say, is to divest his Solantic interests.
In January, Scott did transfer his Solantic stock – to his wife.
“The controlling investor in Solantic is the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust,” Bowling said.
Solantic’s new chairman, as of last month, is retired Columbia/HCA executive Charles Evans. Evans said he is the Scott trust’s representative.
“I have no communication with them at all,” Evans said.
Scott’s efforts to distance himself appear to be designed to meet the letter of Florida ethics laws, if not the spirit.

Legal experts suggests Scott’s efforts might not survive a legal challenge:
They may not succeed if challenged, warned legal and ethics expert Marc Rodwin, a law professor at Suffolk University who is the author of several books on health care and conflicts of interest.
“Placing his ownership in the name of his wife is not an effective way to control for conflicts of interest and not generally accepted because they are personally related,” Rodwin said.
Rodwin said Scott’s blindness to Solantic’s daily business decisions likewise does not relieve his conflict.
“His family still benefits from it,” he said.
And questions still remain about why Scott seems so adamantly opposed to the pill mill database, and whether Solantic clinics will benefit from his policies, which seem designed to drive more business to private medical operators, with less and less government scrutiny.
Scott’s intentions are hard to discern, because of the extreme secrecy of his administration, which routinely refuses to divulge its contacts with business.
Without disclosure, one can only guess whether Scott’s policies stand to enrich the company whose profits now flow to his wife.


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