CFO Jeff Atwater, Gov. Rick Scott settle 'Taj Mahal' art case, agree to pay Signature Art Gallery
After two years, two lawsuits and seven appeals, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday agreed to pay Signature Art Gallery for framed photos ordered by judges at the 1st District Court of Appeal.
Instead of the $357,000 tab due when the photographs were completed, the state will pay almost $515,000, a price that includes storage and legal fees paid by the gallery owner.
The payment must be approved by members of the Legislative Budget Commission at a meeting in January. Once paid for, the art will go to the Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs. If the Commission rejects the payment, the lawsuit will continue.
Scott and Atwater said the settlement, helped along by court-ordered mediation, is in the state’s best interest. It will end expensive litigation and safeguard taxpayer money while also signaling that the state’s contracting system “must be cost effective, accountable and transparent,’’ the two officials said in a joint release.
The settlement was announced Tuesday, the day Atwater had been scheduled to answer questions under oath from lawyers who represent the gallery and Peter R. Brown Construction of Clearwater.
Lucy Morgan, Times senior correspondent