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A Times Editorial

Sleazy deal snares McCollum

Attorney General Bill McCollum and George Rekers have this in common: They were both happy to hire sleazy services, and they knew what they were getting for the money. Now both are having trouble explaining themselves.

McCollum personally chose Rekers, a notorious antigay psychologist, as an "expert'' witness in Florida's legal effort to defend the state's indefensible ban on gay people adopting children. That decision is under renewed scrutiny following reports that Rekers traveled for two weeks in Europe with a gay male escort from Miami. Rekers denied having sex with the escort and said he paid him to carry his luggage. Taxpayers paid more than $120,000 for McCollum's poor choice of Rekers for the state's case. Neither man's explanations are reassuring.

When first questioned about selecting Rekers in 2008, McCollum's office blamed the Department of Children and Families for choosing him — which DCF did not appreciate. After the new scandal broke, McCollum told the Orlando Sentinel that his office did a "thorough search" for witnesses and "there wasn't a whole lot of choice.'' There was not a whole lot of choice because legitimate mental health professionals don't share Rekers' homophobic views, and Florida is the only state that bans adoptions by gay residents. McCollum's search also was not very thorough.

If the attorney general's office had done its due diligence, it would have discovered that an Arkansas judge in 2004 called Rekers' testimony in a similar case "extremely suspect" and that he "was there to primarily to promote his own personal ideology.'' No wonder that the Miami-Dade judge in the Florida gay adoption case called Rekers' testimony "far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence'' and concluded "the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.''

For such worthless testimony in a losing case, taxpayers paid Rekers a premium. After an initial agreement to pay him $60,900, McCollum's office approved another payment of nearly $60,000 because Rekers never signed a contract that would have capped his fee. This is not the sort of sloppy staff work a Republican candidate for governor can easily defend.

Arkansas wound up in a dispute over fees with Rekers and eventually paid him $60,000, far less than the $200,000 he billed. Florida taxpayers also deserve a refund — and a better explanation from McCollum about hiring such a discredited "expert.''

Sleazy deal snares McCollum 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 7:57pm]
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