Scott's blind trust complies with new law, Ethic Commission decides
The blind trust that Gov. Rick Scott set up two years ago to manage a large part of his finances still meets the approval of the Commission on Ethics.
Scott asked for the Commission's opinion to ensure the blind trust complies with a new state law passed by the 2013 legislature.
"The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute," said the panel's general counsel Christopher Anderson, who added that Scott was "ahead of the game" in 2011 and complies with the new law.
The panel -- with five of its nine members appointed by the governor -- voted unanimously to approve Anderson's opinion.
The essence of a blind trust, he said, is that a "disinterested fiduciary" is handling the official's finances.
But Integrity Florida, has questions about the role of Scott’s trustee, Alan L. Bazaar, a partner and co-CEO of Hollow Brook Wealth Management LLC. Bazaar co-managed a public company portfolio for Richard L. Scott Investments, LLC from 1999 to 2010.
"An issue that still needs to be addressed is whether the manager of the trust is a business associate of the governor, which is prohibited by the new ethics law,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida.
Scott's general counsel Peter Antonacci said the governor and Bazaar “were not in business” together.
"Hollow Brook is the trustee. Hollow Brook has been an investment adviser for the governor for a number of years,” Antonacci said. “Hollow Brook qualifies to be a trustee under Florida law."
He added that “The idea here is to make sure that the person who created the trust as an office holder does not know what the investment adviser has done as far as the buying and selling of assets."
The purpose of the blind trust, he said, "is to provide a safe harbor" from the prohibitions of the conflict of interest statute and the voting conflict statute.
But blind trusts, Krassner said in an email, also "allow officials to keep their assets secret, leaving the public unable to hold them accountable. This was an inherently flawed process. How can the Ethics Commission accurately assess whether the governor's blind trust complies with the law if they only review limited information from the governor?
"The Ethics Commission did not use its authority to seek additional information for this opinion beyond the limited facts presented to them by the governor,” Krassner said.
The Commission was not given any additional list of assets since the trust was created in 2011, and agreed with Scott's lawyers that making these assets public "would be contrary to the purposes and terms of the trust" and the new law.
The blind trust that was created in 2011 by Scott, Antonacci said, "fits neatly into what the Legislature did this session,” because it's "almost a perfect image of what was has been required of federal officials for many years."
This summer, Scott's trust totaled $72.9 million, an increase from $71.5 million the year before. The trust doesn't include all the assets Scott may have.
"There are some other things, small checking accounts and that sort of stuff," said Antonacci.
But the governor’s new airplane, a Cessna Citation, doesn't appear on his financial statement, for instance, because it's not in his name. The plane is included in the name of a Naples business that lists Ann Scott as an officer.
Other assets are held in a revocable trust in Ann Scott's name that by law is not required to be disclosed.
Steve Bousquet contributed to this article.