TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday defended chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth by saying he was "doing a great job" as newly released state job applications showed the aide giving two slightly different answers in recent years to the question of when he attended college.
Hollingsworth received a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Alabama in December 2009. He told the Times/Herald on Friday that he claimed to have had a degree as far back as 1995 and apologized for what he called a "misrepresentation" and a "failure in judgment."
As new paperwork surfaced, the governor's office said Hollingsworth answered truthfully when he applied in May 2011 to be a Scott appointee to the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private job creation agency.
The governor's official state questionnaire asked for college "dates attended" and Hollingsworth answered "1986-1990." In answer to the next question, "degrees received," he wrote, "BA, Communications."
He did not note when he graduated and Scott's office noted that the form did not ask that question.
"The (Enterprise Florida) application, which Adam completed after 2009, did not request a graduation date so one was not provided," said Scott's spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers. "Reading anything else into that completely ignores the two other state applications, also filled out after 2009, which include information about the 2009 degree."
On those two other slightly different state job applications for full-time employment, which Hollingsworth filled out in May and June of 2012, he was asked to list "dates of attendance" at colleges.
On both, he answered "from 8/86 to 5/90, 2009," and listed "B.A., Communications, 12/09" on his application to be Scott's chief of staff.
Scott appointed Hollingsworth as chief of staff in July 2012. The disclosure that he lied about his degree surfaced as his name was circulating as a possible candidate to be Scott's new lieutenant governor.
"I'm just glad that Adam has a college degree. I'm proud of him for doing that," Scott told reporters after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. "He's admitted he made a mistake. He's doing a great job. He's a good friend."
Scott suggested that despite speculation that Hollingsworth's job is in jeopardy, he's not going anywhere: "He's going to continue to do a good job," he said.
Hollingsworth's resume-padding has been the talk of Tallahassee for days. The 45-year-old Jacksonville native is Scott's closest adviser and is expected to play a pivotal role in Scott's upcoming re-election campaign.
The Pensacola News Journal, an influential voice in the conservative Panhandle, on Tuesday editorially called on Hollingsworth to resign or be fired because of "academic fraud," stating: "This is a serious problem for Scott."
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has had policy differences with the Scott administration, but he defended Hollingsworth.
"I think it's an old story," Weatherford said. "I've got a lot of respect for him. I think he's doing a good job. I stand by him."