1. Florida Politics

Gov. Scott backs project with ties to his top aide

Published Feb. 22, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — The $200 million that Florida Gov. Rick Scott pledged to put toward a train depot at Orlando's busy international airport also will benefit a company that previously employed the governor's chief of staff.

Text messages obtained by the Associated Press show chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth discussed the rail project with a top aide in the Scott administration while he was still working for Flagler Development Group and Parallel Infrastructure. Both companies are connected to the company building All Aboard Florida, a private passenger line that would link Central and South Florida. All Aboard Florida stands to get a significant boost from the airport depot.

Monica Russell, a spokeswoman for the Scott administration, said this week that Hollingsworth never discussed the $200 million spending request with the governor.

Florida Department of Transportation officials also maintain that Hollingsworth, who has been Scott's chief of staff since July 2012, was not involved in any discussions about the project.

Three years ago, Scott scuttled a planned high-speed rail line linking Orlando and Tampa after he rejected billions in federal aid awarded to the state.

Scott said on Thursday that the request from the airport "made sense" because Orlando is growing and because of tourism.