Gov. Rick Scott appears to be in a big hurry to begin his expected campaign for U.S. Senate, quickly signing the state budget and dozens of other bills into law. He moves just as quickly to avoid any responsibility when something goes terribly wrong, from a bridge collapse to a mass shooting. As voters evaluate the governor’s record in the coming months, they should be mindful of his repeated efforts to deflect criticism and hold him accountable for his administration’s shortcomings.
The latest example of Scott’s aversion to accepting responsibility and his tendency to point fingers elsewhere is this month’s collapse of the pedestrian bridge under construction at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County, which killed six people on the road below it. Hours after the collapse, the governor’s Department of Transportation sent out a "preliminary fact sheet’’ minimizing DOT’s involvement with the bridge and emphasizing in bold type, "this is not an FDOT project.’’ The responsibility was placed squarely on FIU, and DOT was portrayed as doing little more than issuing a permit for traffic control while the bridge was put in place and passing along federal and state money.
As it turns out, that characterization was misleading at best. The Associated Press reports DOT suggested a design change in the bridge in October 2016 to move one of the bridge’s main supports by 11 feet on the same end where the bridge started crumbling. And an engineer for a private contractor left a voice message with DOT two days before the bridge collapse warning of "some cracking.’’ And DOT officials were in a meeting where the cracking was discussed, and that meeting led to the tightening of steel rods that was continuing when the collapse occurred. Other than that, DOT had absolutely, positively nothing to do with this project.
After last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Scott quickly demanded that FBI Director Christopher Wray resign after the FBI acknowledged it received a telephone tip that accused shooter Nikolas Cruz owned guns and had expressed a desire to kill people. The FBI never forwarded that tip to its Miami office or acted upon it, and Wray apologized.
As it turns out, Scott’s Department of Children and Families was involved with Cruz’s family in 2016. And a caller reported to DCF that Cruz had cut both his arms and had said he planned to buy a gun. And Cruz was receiving mental health treatment before, during and after DCF’s investigation from Henderson Behavioral Health, an independent provider. And Henderson told the agency that Cruz was taking medication. Of course, no one called on Scott to resign.
After 14 patients from a Hollywood Hills nursing home died in the intense heat following September’s Hurricane Irma, Scott voided the home’s state license and cut off its Medicaid funding. As it turns out, nursing home officials called the governor’s cellphone and state agencies seeking help after the power went out and their air conditioning was cut off during the hurricane. And the Miami Herald reported the considerable shortcomings of the required emergency management plans that the state routinely rubber stamps. Of course, Scott deleted the voice mails left on his cellphone, and the Broward state attorney declined to investigate.
The common thread running through these deadly tragedies is Scott’s practice of blaming others when things go terribly wrong while avoiding responsibility for his administration’s failures. As voters evaluate the governor’s record, they should examine the entire picture rather than his polished version.