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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

McCollum defends selection of antigay psychologist as necessary expert witness

Attorney General Bill McCollum Tuesday defended his personal intervention into the selection of an antigay expert witness in the case defending the state's gay adoption ban, saying his office "searched a long time" for someone and that George Rekers was the only one of two they could find.

Records show that McCollum personally requested that the state's Department of Children & Families hire Rekers at $300 an hour to help the state defend the case. When the agency balked at the price tag, McCollum's office persisted, ultimately leading to DCF paying pay him $120,000 over two years.

McCollum said that while he would not hire Rekers again knowing what he knows now -- that Rekers vacationed for two weeks in Europe with a gay male escort from Miami and received sexual massages from him -- he suggested that without Rekers the agency would not have been successful.

DCF lost the case in circuit court and the matter is now on appeal.

Here's a Q and A between McCollum and reporters today:

Q: Did you push for Rekers because he was the only expert you could find that represented the point of view that you wanted to take in that case?

A: The attorney generals office played its traditional role and defended DCF and the legal challenge, McCollum said. "There was a search that I oversaw and saw for the best available experts. Dr. Rekers was one of the two expert witnesses we used in this case. We recommended both to the department. They decided to hire Dr. Rekers and they paid him.

"If I knew what I know today would I recommend him again? Of course not. Would I ever recommend him again? No. But he was the best available at the time.''

Q: Was he the only available?

A: "There were two."

Q: There were only two you could find in the whole nation?

A: "There were only two willing to step forward and testify and we searched a long time. His credentials were very good and, on paper, excellent. That's why we recommended it because those kinds of people that we were able to fill for the job. It's nice to quarterback in hindsight but we didn't know his background that we know today. Nobody else did."

Q: Does it raise some questions about about the nature of hiring an expert witnesses? ...If you are trying to find an expert witness who will only say one thing and you can only find two people who will only say one thing does that raise any questions in your mind about the legal principle here?

A: "If you want to look at the whole system of law today, the battle of expert witnesses needs to be addressed. But the way our system works today, expert witnessses are important. You have to establish your case. We happened to be on the side of the state. You've got to get the very best you can."

Q: If you didn't have an expert witness what would have happened to your case?

A: "If you don't have an expert witness you aren't going to be as successful...I didn't try the case. These are our lawyers for the department and I'm proud of our lawyer team."

Q: Should the state ask for its money back?

A: "I can't comment on the litigation itself. It's an ongoing process."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:37am]

    

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