Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Scott's appointments, secrecy undercut his Irma performance

Gov. Rick Scott gets generally good reviews for his consistent warnings before Hurricane Irma and for the state's response afterward. But even in the midst of dealing with a major hurricane and the recovery, the governor's worst impulses diminish his efforts and his credibility. Scott continues to appoint political allies rather than qualified experts to key positions, circumvents public records laws and prefers secrecy over openness, even in times of crisis.

With two months left in hurricane season, Scott has appointed a 29-year-old political operative with virtually no experience to head the Division of Emergency Management. Wes Maul graduated from law school just four years ago, worked as a travel aide on the governor's re-election campaign and spent time as "special assistant to the governor" before becoming chief of staff to the departing emergency management director a year ago. Now Maul will run the department responsible for preparing and responding to hurricanes?

This is a disaster waiting to happen. Maul is no Craig Fugate, who had the job when four hurricanes cut through Florida in six weeks in 2004 and went on to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And he's no Bryan Koon, who had emergency management experience in the federal government and at Wal-Mart and has had the job since 2011. Koon's departure for the private sector is ill-timed, coming just after Irma and before the end of hurricane season. That doesn't justify appointing someone so unqualified even on an interim basis and putting Floridians at risk.

Yet Scott often chooses political loyalty over experience. He's not the first governor to park campaign operatives in high-paying state jobs without worrying about their qualifications. But his default is personal connection even in high-profile jobs of great responsibility, and his circle of friends is small. Scott appointed Jesse Panuccio as executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity though he had no business experience, and Panuccio resigned when it appeared he would not be confirmed by the Senate. He appointed former Rep. Jimmy Patronis to the Cabinet position of chief financial officer though Patronis has no financial background other than helping run his family's Panama City Beach restaurant. He named Bradenton developer and former U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff as chair of the Constitution Revision Commission, and Beruff will never be mistaken for a constitutional scholar. Now comes Maul, the most unqualified and inexperienced of them all.

Further undermining public trust in the governor is his blatant, persistent disregard for public records and openness. Scott vigorously defends the state's actions regarding a Broward nursing home whose residents suffered without air conditioning following Irma — and 11 of them died. Yet voicemail messages from nursing home officials to Scott's cellphone before the deaths occurred were deleted, which violates at least the spirit of the state's public records laws. It also turns out the Scott administration used software to heavily redact nursing home inspection reports — and those same reports are available from the federal government without the redactions. The state said it would stop using the software after the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau reported the practice.

During and after Irma, even routine information from the state's emergency operations center was carefully managed and hard to come by. Contrary to prior practice under other governors, reporters could watch hurricane briefings from behind the glass but could not hear anything. While Fugate became a national figure in Florida as he managed the state's response to hurricanes, Koon was rarely available to the media and Scott hogged the television time.

During his campaigns, Scott cited his experience in the private sector and promised to run state government like a business. But after nearly seven years as governor, he has yet to understand that government is the public's business. His penchant for secrecy and handing key jobs to unqualified friends stains his record and makes it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt even during hurricanes.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18