If Rick Scott wants to run for governor on his record as a businessman, he needs to make that record public. But the health care executive has stubbornly refused to answer specific questions about his role in a company that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Now he's also refusing to discuss recent allegations that another health care company he started also skirted the law. • Four months into his self-funded campaign, the first-time Republican candidate still doesn't grasp a basic tenet: The public has a right to know the private business dealings of people seeking high public office — particularly when that is the only record upon which to evaluate them.
At issue are newly disclosed allegations connected to one of Scott's most recent business ventures, a 34-store chain of medical clinics based in Jacksonville called Solantic. On the campaign trail, Scott boasts he took his business know-how to build a company that delivers patient-centered, low cost health care.
But a series of lawsuits and a new allegation of fraud by a former Solantic doctor suggest a less flattering picture. And just six days before he announced his bid for governor, Scott participated in a deposition in one lawsuit where a former employee alleged that Scott and others at the company misused his medical license to circumvent state regulations.
Scott won't discuss the suit, which has since been settled, and a confidentiality agreement has been signed. He won't release the deposition contending, "It's a private matter."
Instead, Scott's trying to deflect the issue by blasting Attorney General Bill McCollum's campaign for its role in bringing Solantic to the attention of Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation after it received a tip from a former Solantic doctor.
McCollum's campaign handed the situation awkwardly, but not necessarily inappropriately. The doctor claimed in an unsolicited e-mail that the company routinely overcharged government health programs for services. The campaign hired an attorney to review the information, and the attorney ultimately forwarded it July 30 to the FDLE and FBI. Attorney Stephen Dobson, a Democrat who has never contributed to McCollum, said McCollum, and by extension his campaign, couldn't ignore the information, as state law requires the attorney general to ensure Medicaid fraud claims are investigated.
McCollum has not used the specific allegations contained in the e-mail in his campaign, though last week a bizarre lawsuit seeking the release of Scott's deposition in the 2008 lawsuit did put them in the public record. Scott blamed McCollum for instigating the lawsuit, but his campaign denied involvement.
But Scott is poorly cast as a victim in this case. For months he has told voters his business record makes him the most qualified candidate for governor. Now that his record is under scrutiny, he has an obligation to disclose more, not less. Candor, not defensiveness, is what is required of public servants.