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If you ran a business and nearly every person you appointed to a critical position resigned under a cloud of incompetence or fraud at some point someone just might point out the failure is yours. Florida Governor Rick Scott is hoping no one notices that in just three short years he has compiled an unprecedented record of his top appointees being forced out or resigning due to a lack of ability, a lack of honesty, or both. Consider the following:
• Scott’s Lieutenant Governor resigned amidst allegations she assisted a fake veterans charity whose organizers have all been indicted for criminal misconduct.
• His Chief of Staff left after it was revealed he steered a no-bid consulting contract to a friend who, ironically, was leading a task force rooting out government waste.
• Scott has gone through multiple Education Commissioners, two of whom departed based on revelations of incompetence and fraud surrounding the state’s controversial school grading system.
• His appointee responsible for protecting vulnerable children, the head of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), left after a series of horrific and entirely preventable tragedies.
• His appointees responsible for protecting vulnerable senior citizens are out: the first was shown the door because Scott believed he was over-protecting our seniors, and the second is on house arrest for “unspecified” wrongdoing.
• Scott has forced out, not one, but two Directors of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity. One was canned because he admitted the state wasted tens of million to lure companies to Florida without producing jobs; the other was fired because it was revealed he received unemployment benefits during his ritzy European vacations. (His excuse: it gave him a better understanding of his department’s mission of overseeing the state’s unemployment compensation program)
• And the man he chose to oversee programs for persons with disabilities resigned to avoid testifying before a Senate panel about a sex scandal at a Tampa group home he supervised.
And this list, by no means, is even close to Scott’s entire list of drive-by appointees. He has had three different chiefs-of-staff, a handful of education commissioners, four secretaries of states, three general counsels, and three secretaries of corrections.
When Rick Scott said he was going to run Florida like a business, it makes you wonder what kind of business he was referring to.
This inability to find competent and honest people to serve Floridians has real repercussions.
Public school students have had 5 different education commissioners, the last one holding the job for only 7 months. How can Floridians have faith in a school system with such rampant turnover at the top?
Hiring an unqualified ideologue to lead our Department of Children&Families made it much more difficult to protect vulnerable children under state supervision. Floridians were shocked by the recent parade of child deaths from DCF miscues.
Vulnerable senior citizens, public school children, Floridians with disabilities, children at risk of abuse. The list of our citizens short-changed by this incompetence just keeps growing.
But it’s not hard to figure out why Scott’s appointees seem so ethically challenged.
After all, it is Scott himself who has fostered a “pay to play” style of governance, making it no surprise that so many of his appointees have followed his lead. After Scott opened up a re-election fund, ironically titled “Let’s Get to Work,” he did just that. Scott began furiously accepting huge checks from special interests trying to obtain profitable state contracts or favorable legislation.
When a new upstart insurance company with a shady history needed support to get a no-bid Citizens Property Insurance deal approved, it ponied up $110,000 to Scott’s fund, and that month Scott’s appointees starting pushing through a $52 million giveaway.
It’s also Governor Scott who has made his administration unaccepting of anything other than the most rigid right-wing ideologies. When the feds were offering Florida $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail to connect Tampa and Orlando, Scott placated his tea party supporters by rejecting the funds notwithstanding the tens of thousands of jobs the project would have created.
Filling your administration with ideologues means pragmatism takes a back seat to political ideology. Many of Scott’s appointees failed because they followed flawed dogmas at the expense of job performance.
Ultimately, Scott is hoping voters don’t blame him for the revolving door of incompetence he has brought to Florida. He hopes to be re-elected by trying to take credit for a national economic recovery that, ironically, has been buoyed by fiscal policies he opposed. But given the magnitude of dysfunction Rick Scott has brought to Florida, it is more likely voters show him the same exit door used by his growing roster of failed appointees.
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