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McCollum requested antigay expert now embroiled in Rentboy scandal

Attorney General Bill McCollum personally requested that the state's Department of Children and Families hire antigay psychologist George Rekers at $300 an hour as an expert witness to defend Florida's ban on gay people adopting, records show.

"Our attorneys handling this case have searched long and hard for other expert witnesses with comparable expertise to Dr. Rekers and have been unable to identify any who would be available for this case," McCollum wrote in 2007 to then-DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth.

Rekers' national reputation shattered last week amid reports that he vacationed for two weeks in Europe with a gay male escort from Miami he met through Rentboy.com. The escort, Jo-Vanni Roman, 20, says he gave Rekers, 61, nude "sexual" massages every day during their trip in April to Madrid and London.

Florida paid Rekers $60,900 in 2007 and $59,793 in 2009 for his testimony in the case of Frank Gill, a gay foster parent seeking to adopt two young brothers. Florida is the only state that bans all gay people from adopting.

Among the charges Rekers submitted to Florida for the Gill trial:

• $27,000 (90 hours) to "evaluate and critique" new research.

• $5,400 (18 hours) to meet with staffers at the Attorney General's Office to prepare for deposition.

• $6,000 (20 hours) to standby at trial and deliver expert academic opinions.

A 2008 Rekers purchase requisition states that no payment should exceed $60,900. A year later, however, the Attorney General's Office authorized that Rekers be paid another $59,793.

The psychologist, apparently, never signed a contract limiting how much he could charge the state.

"A total of 402.31 hours was submitted for payment by invoice attached. Of the 402.31 hours, 203 was paid by Direct Order. We accept responsibility for not obtaining a written document for the 199.31 remaining hours. However, the monies are legally due," according to a 2009 state settlement agreement.

In November 2008, Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman awarded custody of the two boys to Gill. In her final judgment, Lederman wrote:

"Dr. Rekers' testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers' beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy."

McCollum's office has appealed Lederman's ruling, and a decision is expected anytime.

"As hired counsel for the Florida Department of Children and Families, our office provided our client with the best possible legal representation in this matter," said Sandi Copes, communications director for the Attorney General's Office.

Copes declined to comment on the Gill case but said: "This office will not engage or recommend Dr. Rekers in the future."

Rekers, a founder of the conservative Family Research Council who believes homosexuality is a sin, is well known for his antigay stance. In 1989, he and Jerry Regier — later a DCF secretary — co-wrote an essay entitled The Christian World View of the Family, which railed against abortion and gay couples forming families, and emphasized that husbands have "final say in any family dispute."

Roman says Rekers, an officer of the conservative National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality and a retired University of South Carolina professor, paid him $75 a day plus expenses to travel with him.

Rekers acknowledged traveling with Roman but denied having sex with him. The professor said he met Roman through "acquaintances" and hired him to carry his luggage during heir trip.

After the Rentboy scandal broke, McCollum, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, told the Orlando Sentinel that his office did a "thorough search" to find Rekers. "There wasn't a whole lot of choice," McCollum told a Sentinel columnist.

But three years before Florida hired Rekers, an Arkansas judge in 2004 denounced him during a similar state adoption case.

"The Arkansas judge, Timothy Fox, said Rekers' testimony was worthless as evidence because it was only his personal view," according to an editorial this week in the Arkansas Leader.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also concluded Rekers' testimony "was pointless" and declared the state's antigay adoption rule unconstitutional, the editorial continued.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state's leading gay-rights group, says McCollum should demand Rekers repay his fees.

"Rekers is part of a small cadre of bogus pseudo scientists that charge these exorbitant fees to peddle information they know has been discredited time and time again. And people like McCollum will pay top dollar for it," Smith said. "There's a reason why he can't find credible sources. Because credible people don't believe this ban should exist."

More on the Rekers case

Read Bill McCollum's letter on George Rekers and the state's purchasing agreement at links.tampabay.com.

McCollum requested antigay expert now embroiled in Rentboy scandal 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 11:52pm]

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