Gov. Rick Scott's caffeinated stonewalling
It seemed like a simple request on Saturday: Who are the lawmakers invited to have coffee with Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday and where?
But getting a straight answer out of Scott's press shop has so far proved impossible. (Updated below ***)
The state Constitution prohibits the governor and lawmakers from privately meeting to discuss pending legislation. Scott's folks have insisted that, in his private meetings, the governor hasn't broken the law. But on at least one occasion, a meeting with three senators involved somewhat substantial discussions on the budget. On Sunday, Scott and his wife dined with Senate President/U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos in private. Haridopolos said the politicians didn't talk politics.
When asked about the coffee plans for today, Scott's spokesman Brian Burgess said by e-mail Saturday that he didn't know about any coffee invitation at first. Then, he said, the gathering wouldn't break the law.
"Coffee with 10 legislators -- purely social," he said by e-mail. "But thanks for ruining a perfectly good Saturday with my family so you could be first to report the non-story."
But who are the legislators? Burgess wouldn't or couldn't say.
He then forwarded the correspondence from his public e-mail account to his private e-mail account and asked this of Scott higher-ups, Hayden Dempsey and Spencer Geissinger: "Do we have the names of the people who will be enjoying a smile and warm cup of coffee with the Governor on Tuesday morning? Mr. Marc Caputo, copied on this email, believes Floridians will be clamoring for this information and hopes to attract dozens of hits to his blog. I would like to accommodate him in the spirit of openness, transparency and friendship."
Neither Geissinger nor Dempsey responded Saturday. Asked again Sunday, they didn't respond. Asked again Monday night, they didn't respond.
*** It appears the governor's office scrapped the plans to meet with a group of legislators. Instead, they filed in one by one to meet with Scott. That way, Scott could talk state business with legislators without running afoul of the state Constitution.
"Originally, I think, there was going to be a group of us and I was told to come around 9:15. That changed. I was told to come at 9:08," said Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville.
"I don't drink coffee," he added. On the way out, about 15 minutes later, Weinstein joked: "I didn't get any liquids."
Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, sat in the lobby, meanwhile, and said "I have no idea" why she was called. Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, was ushered in before her.
Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, came out a little later and said he didn't have coffee, either. What did they talk about? "Boots. We talked about our boots. I told him I was wearing my boots in his honor. He showed me his boots (they have a gold-embossed "45" on them, because Scott's the 45th governor)."
Patronis said they also chatted about the tea party groups outside and, finally, about pensions, an issue that come come before his committee.