Controversy brews over deleting of nursing home voicemails from Scott’s cell phone

In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood, Florida. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File

Sun Sentinel by Gray Rohrer

September 26, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott’s staff created controversy when they deleted voicemails left by workers at a Hollywood nursing home where 11 residents died after Hurricane Irma.

Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone pointed to state rules on handling of public records, which note that “transitory” information, such as scheduling for meetings and “most telephone messages,” can be deleted after their short-term value is lost.

“The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling. Every call was returned,” Schenone wrote in an email Monday. “The Governor receives hundreds of voicemails and once acted upon, they are deleted so the voicemail box does not become full, as is the standard practice with anyone operating a cellphone. This practice follows Florida law, and the state’s record retention policies.”

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a public records advocacy group, said she doesn’t think Scott acted illegally, but added the voicemails could have backed up his story.

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