Bay News 9 by Troy Kinsey
October 23, 2017
Progressive activists on Monday called for an investigation into whether Gov. Rick Scott illegally deleted voicemails left on his cell phone by the administrator of the South Florida nursing home where more than a dozen seniors died amid sweltering conditions in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
- Voicemails transcribed by Scott’s staff
- Activists demonstrated outside governor’s capitol office
- Voicemails should be considered public records, group says
The voicemails, which the administrator of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills said warned the governor that the nursing home’s air conditioning had failed and that an evacuation would be needed, were transcribed by Scott’s staff at the state Emergency Operations Center in the hours following Irma’s landfall last month. An evacuation, however, was slow in coming, a delay that turned out to be deadly.
Standing outside Scott’s Capitol office, the activists representing the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans demanded that Tallahassee-area State Attorney Jack Campbell open a probe to determine if the governor violated the Sunshine Law by destroying the voicemails.
“We need our state attorney to read the letter we sent him and to act on it and investigate the lack of transparency, the lack of heeding the call of these nursing homes,” said FLARA board member Barbara DeVane.
In drafting its letter to Campbell, the group enlisted the help of Mark Herron, a Tallahassee election law attorney versed in the Sunshine Law. Because Scott gave nursing home administrators his cell phone number and specifically requested that they call him should they have a storm-related emergency, Herron says the voicemails were public records.
“He could have said, ‘you should have called the Ghostbusters’,” Herron joked. “But, unfortunately, he asked for this information to be transmitted to him.”
It now appears, though, that Scott didn’t intend for his phone to be a clearinghouse for nursing home pleas.
“Any health care professional that thinks calling an elected official’s cell phone instead of 911 when people are in need should not be allowed to have any access to patients,” Scott said in a statement after his administration suspended the Rehabilitation Center’s state license. [READ MORE]