Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Governor Phony Rick Scott?


Fourteen months from the next election, Gov. Rick Scott’s sales pitch is clear. He portrays himself as the education governor, the defender of the environment and the advocate for open records. He’s the jobs governor, and he has empathy for Floridians without health coverage. Don’t be fooled by the packaging. It’s a facade that hides reality, and Florida deserves better.

Scott organized a three-day summit last week to tackle controversies over the coming Common Core State Standards and the discredited school accountability system now in place. He promotes the $1 billion in new money public schools received this year and his effort to give teachers raises.
The reality is Scott failed to show up at his own summit to listen to the concerns of school superintendents and others. Instead he ate dinner privately with former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose passion for education is unquestioned even if some of his views are controversial.
This year’s per student funding is the highest of Scott’s three years as governor. But it is still lower than each of the five previous years under his predecessors, Charlie Crist and Bush. Scott also signed into law the legislation that siphons off school construction money to privately run charter schools. And the governor’s last two hand-picked education commissioners have shown more interest in advocating for charter schools and expanding voucher programs than in creating successful public schools.
Now there is another interim education commissioner, and the revolving door in Tallahassee leaves local school districts without clear direction from the state. Will Scott fold on Common Core and the student assessments needed to make them work?
The governor staged another media show last week to promote a worthy project to improve water flow into Everglades National Park. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage he has done to the environment.
The governor decimated growth management and eliminated the agency that enforced it. He fought the federal government over clean-water standards, neutered the water management districts by slashing their tax base and manipulated the regulatory process to put politics above science. His money for Florida’s springs is hardly meaningful. The deal he cut with the federal government on restoring the Everglades put the deadline off again. And to raise money to buy sensitive lands, the state’s solution is to sell land it already owns.
Scott is still looking at toll roads to nowhere across the middle of Florida. The state still has no cohesive energy policy. And the governor’s environmental agency is more focused on quickly approving the requests of developers than on protecting wetlands. A news conference on one worthy project cannot mask years of bad policy.
Scott inaccurately claims he is more than halfway toward meeting his pledge of creating 700,000 jobs, and he keeps cranking out the news releases. Last week: 100 jobs at Boeing in Miami; 105 new air cargo jobs in Orlando; 200 jobs at technology company Citrix in Fort Lauderdale. The week before that: 40 jobs at the moving and storage company PODS in Clearwater.
Many of the jobs Scott counts won’t be created for years, if ever, and the bigger picture is darker. The state’s unemployment rate has been stuck at 7.1 percent for three months, better than the national average of 7.4 percent. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force expanded in the Tampa Bay area, Jacksonville and Orlando in the past year but in other areas — South Florida, the Panhandle, Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakeland — the labor force contracted. And the jobless rate in Pasco and Hernando counties is still 8 percent or higher.
Scott’s heavy-handed attempt to lure companies from other states is a public relations nightmare, and it isn’t working. While Florida now has roughly as many jobs as before the recession, people earn less and there are more part-time jobs. Jobs in the low-paying leisure and hospitality sectors are up. Better paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and professional/business services are still down.
The bottom line: The job situation is not nearly as rosy as Scott projects.
Health care
After Florida failed to persuade the courts to block health care reform, Scott called for the state to accept billions in federal dollars and expand Medicaid to 1 million uninsured residents. “I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care,” he declared in February.
Then he stopped listening to his conscience. Scott sat by as House Speaker Will Weatherford blocked expansion, and he has dropped the issue. What the governor has done is reject millions in federal dollars to implement health care reform and left the creation of an insurance exchange to the federal government. He also foolishly signed into law a ban on state regulation of health insurance rates for two years.
New U.S. Census figures show nearly 1 in 4 Floridians lack health insurance, the second highest rate in the nation. Hospitals in Orlando, Vero Beach and elsewhere are laying off workers and reducing pay in part because the new Medicaid dollars aren’t coming.
Scott isn’t expanding access to health care. He is working against it. He is making it harder for hospitals to make ends meet, harder for the uninsured to get coverage and harder for businesses to comply with the federal law.
Scott promised an unprecedented effort toward government transparency: Regular releases on the Internet of nearly all emails received or written by the governor and his top staff. The goal was to eventually extend the service, known as Project Sunburst, to Scott’s 11 agencies as well.
Sunburst has been a bust. Efforts to meet a seven-day window in posting emails to the site routinely goes unmet and are incomplete. Agencies were never added to the project and Scott and his aides avoid creating public records when they can. Scott’s chief of staff isn’t shy about reminding subordinates that anything they send to him by email is a public record. Contrast that with the first e-governor, Jeb Bush, who was such a believer in efficient communication his state portrait includes his Blackberry in the background.
It’s not just Sunburst. The governor also helped kill one of the most promising efforts for open government. He refused to take ownership of a software project, Transparency 2.0, that would have allowed the public to easily track how state government allocates and spends taxpayer money. The project died from neglect.

Ex-chief Of DeSoto Jail Pleads Guilty


Published: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
DESOTO COUNTY – Ray Kugler, the former sheriff’s captain in charge of the DeSoto County jail, has agreed to plead guilty to lying to FBI agents — a federal felony.

Ray Kugler
According to court documents, an FBI special agent and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement interviewed Kugler June 24 as part of the agencies’ investigation into allegations of abuse and civil rights violations in the jail made by Jody Holland, a former inmate.
Holland, 43, says DeSoto deputies beat him on three occasions, slamming his head into a concrete wall, punching him in the face and chest and choking him nearly unconscious.
Sheriff’s officials — including Kugler — initially denied that any staff member used force on Holland, but the Sheriff’s Office started an investigation after being contacted by the Herald-Tribune.
The FBI, FDLE and Sheriff’s Office internal affairs detectives started several investigations. Kugler retired while being investigated. Three other jail staffers were fired. One other was disciplined.
The plea
According to the federal plea agreement, the agents asked Kugler about a request to transport Holland to a local hospital — a request Holland and others say Kugler denied.
“The questions asked, and the responses provided by Mr. Kugler, were material to the investigation of whether DeSoto County jail staff, including Mr. Kugler, were willfully and deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of inmate J.H. (Holland),” the plea agreement states.
Kugler denied knowledge of the conversations during which he allegedly refused medical care — assertions that investigators claimed “were false.”
“In fact, Mr. Kugler was aware of the request to transport inmate (Holland) to (DeSoto Memorial Hospital) on May 25 2013 and willfully and deliberately denied such knowledge to S/A Roncinske and Agent Walsh,” the plea agreement states.
Kugler’s lawyer, Fort Myers defense attorney Joseph Viacava, said, “Because of his lack of criminal history, the controversy over the charge itself and his numerous years of public service, it is very unlikely he will serve any jail time, which of course is up to the court.”
“The charge is disputed, but the jury could conclude he did mislead, which is unintentional,” Viacava said. “They thought he was the boss in charge of all this, because he had the original dispute with the guy over some remarks, but they found out he had nothing to do with it.”
Viacava would not allow Kugler to be interviewed by the Herald-Tribune while the sentence is pending.

Moving forward
Holland said he expects more indictments in the case, which has been before a grand jury.
“I want the people who smashed my head — who tried to kill me,” he said. “I am glad it is moving forward.”
Holland said he is still suffering the effects of a mild concussion and from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the beatings.
Deputies arrested Holland on April 21 for allegedly battering his girlfriend, Christine Routson, a nurse who worked at the jail until she resigned while under investigation.
Holland has denied the charges.
He spent the night in jail after that April arrest and was later released subject to a domestic violence injunction that ordered him to stay away from Routson.
She has alleged that Holland violated this court order on at least three occasions.
Holland was arrested May 25 on charges of violating the injunction and taken to the DeSoto jail, where he claims the more serious assaults began.

DeSoto jail

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Governor Rick Scott Is Still Hiding Money

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Guest Blogger
This year the Florida Legislature passed a new blind trust law. The ink had not dried on Gov. Rick Scott’s signature before he decided to test the new law. Scott wanted to make sure the money he had made documented on his questionable personal portfolio was in line with the new law, a law that he and his Republican cronies helped write.
Rick Scott made sure he “stacked the deck” beforehand. According to the Tampa Bay Times, five of (the Ethics Commission) nine members (were) appointed by the governor. “The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute,” said the panel’s general counsel Christopher Anderson, who added that Scott was “ahead of the game” in 2011 and complies with the new law.
Governor Rick Scott
Scott asked for the commission’s opinion to ensure the blind trust complies with a new law. “The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute,” said Anderson.
The voting public conveniently forgets what Scott did. The Sun Sentinel reports that Scott perpetrated fraud that “ was and still is the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history and ended with the hospital giant Columbia/HCA paying a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages.” Scott was co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s, when the FBI launched a massive, multi-state investigation that led to the company pleading guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government.
If fines and penalties of $1.7 Billion are any indication that big money was made then one must think there was a lot of it. Medicare insurance fraud is big money and Rick Scott made a bunch of it. The Tallahassee Democrat indicated that the amount of money that may have been made, “When Scott first sought office, he reported a net worth of $218 million, while the filing he turned in earlier this summer showed that his net worth was nearly $84 million as of the end of 2012.”
The fact that Scott refuses to take any money for being governor, 12-cents a year, allows him to do, basically, whatever he wants when filling out financial disclosure forms. It seems doubtful the state of Florida’s Republican Legislature really cares what he makes. The state is saving $130,00 in salary per year. reported that “Gov. Rick Scott was worth $83.77 million as he wrapped up his second year in office, according to a newly posted financial disclosure form. The blind trust, which accounts for $72.8 million, made $3.1 million in interest last year.”
Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, questioned the independence of the blind trust since the company managing Scott’s account — Hollow Brook Wealth Management — included Scott’s portfolio manager for 10 years. An accountant at the company also worked for Scott for 12 years. Old cronies? It must depend on who’s asking.
The question here is not whether Scott is crooked but just how much of that crooked money did he keep? Think about it when standing in the voting booth next year.