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Florida ethics panel rejects Solantic complaints against Gov. Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Ethics Commission has dismissed two conflict-of-interest complaints against Gov. Rick Scott, both stemming from his ownership stake in Solantic, a chain of urgent-care clinics that is being sold.

The commission issued orders Wednesday saying the complaints filed by residents were legally insufficient to warrant investigation. The panel decided the cases during a closed-door meeting Friday.

Scott transferred his ownership interest in Jacksonville-based Solantic to his wife's revocable trust before taking office in January.

A complaint by Dr. Arthur Palamara of Hollywood alleged that the governor had a conflict and improperly benefited because Solantic has done business with the state and that Scott's policies could create more state business for the company. The other complaint, by Clearwater activist David Plyer, raised similar accusations.

In a written response, Scott's Washington, D.C.-based lawyers said the governor has no conflict because of the ownership transfer to his wife's trust.

"In no way can it be said that Gov. Scott has attempted to us his official position to secure any special privilege or benefit, or otherwise violated the Florida ethics rules," wrote James T. Fuller III and Enu Mainigi.

Scott said last week that he expected the company's sale to be completed in about 30 days. It is awaiting approval of license transfer by regulatory agencies, some under Scott's control.

At its public session Friday, the commission also approved an advisory opinion saying Scott's other investments and his blind trust present no prohibited conflicts of interest.

Palamara's complaint cited news reports that Solantic did business with the state's workers compensation benefit management company for employment-related physical exams and worker's compensation care, but the commission wrote that there was no allegation Scott directed or influenced those payments.

The commission added that Palamara did not allege that Scott was an officer or director of the company or that he retained ownership after taking office.

Both complaints alleged that Solantic would benefit from Scott's appointment of health care agency heads, his policies requiring drug testing of state employees, his backing of legislation that would require similar screening of welfare applicants, and his support of a move to managed care by the state's Medicaid system.

The commission, though, found no evidence that Scott's policies have helped Solantic and said speculation that they might do so isn't enough to launch an investigation.

Palamara has been critical of managed care under which Medicaid patients obtain their treatment through private companies or groups of hospitals and other providers. About half of Florida's 3 million Medicaid participants already are under managed care, and legislation to add nearly all the rest is awaiting Scott's expected signature.

Florida ethics panel rejects Solantic complaints against Gov. Rick Scott 05/18/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 4:06pm]
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