Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Carlton: In political fallout, Gov. Scott overlooks sexist slur

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s spokespeople have sent out missives that say, “Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation” about Sam Rashid. [Associated Press] 
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s spokespeople have sent out missives that say, “Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation” about Sam Rashid. [Associated Press] 
Published Dec. 15, 2015

For nearly three weeks now, Gov. Rick Scott has danced the dance with Sam Rashid.

That's how long it's been since Rashid — Republican activist, political kingmaker, Scott appointee to the important board that oversees Tampa International Airport and self-proclaimed flamethrower — made headlines. This time, he was calling Beth Leytham, who runs a successful public relations consulting business, a "tax-payer subsidized slut" who made millions "as an unregistered Lobbyist by having an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials."

You would think by now, with a larger investigative story out there about Leytham's political connections that's all the buzz, Rashid's words would have lost some of their stunningly, insultingly sexist sting. Nope, still got it.

Rashid has a beef with Go Hillsborough, the push for a tax to pay for transit improvements so we all don't sit gridlocked in traffic for the next decade or so. He has a right to his opinion.

Leytham, who has built relationships with public officials, is working as a subcontractor for the engineering firm hired for public outreach on that transportation push.

So, what did the governor think of those disparaging depictions specific to women uttered by someone he appointed to a prestigious post on the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority? And a followup, please: Does he think Rashid is fit to remain there representing him?

And so began the dance.

Rashid said he would likely resign, then gave a non-apology apology to Leytham and "any other woman" he may have "inadvertently denigrated" and said he would resign if the governor asked.

Well, of course the governor asked, right? Of course he swiftly and decisively sent a message to women, not to mention women voters, that this was unacceptable, right?

Not quite.

Scott said he expected "everyone to live up to the highest standards," and if reports were true, that Rashid would resign. As Rashid seemed to dig in his heels, the governor got really, really stern with this missive from his spokespeople last week: "Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation."

One, two, cha cha cha.

Might Scott lack the power to remove him? The aviation authority's "Enabling Act," which sets out the board's rules, is pretty clear in section 5, paragraph (3): "The Governor has the power to remove any member for good cause."

So, does this mean Scott is still ruminating weeks later on whether insinuating a woman used sex to advance her business with absolutely no evidence of it is really "cause"?

Apparently. This week came an identical missive from Tallahassee: "Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation." Also this week, Rashid implied he would do so only if the governor himself gave him a ring. Cha cha cha.

A larger but related story took off last week with a WTSP 10News investigation about, among other things, how a $1.35 million contract was awarded to engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff for the transit referendum and questioning Leytham's influence in local politics.

Does the ensuing scramble by local politicians give the governor cover to overlook a sexist slur by a powerful Republican down south?

The county administrator has asked the sheriff to investigate in hopes of clearing up questions and moving forward on the transit push — which may be gasping its last breaths anyway given the current controversy.

But here's the thing when it comes to Rashid, his words and his seat on the airport board. On that specific and separate issue, it doesn't matter if the investigation finds all procedures were properly followed or if TV cameras got footage of Leytham carrying sacks of money out of County Center in the dark of night or something in between.

This one is about a governor who's willing to dance.