TALLAHASSEE — After striking out in a Florida court, Gov. Rick Scott has hired a California law firm to fight the subpoena ordering Google to release details about private email accounts possibly used by the governor and his staff to conduct public business.
California attorney John A. Hartog filed a petition in Santa Clara County court on Friday attempting to quash the release of what could be potentially embarrassing details about the use of Gmail accounts held by the governor and two of his staff.
The decision to carry the fight to California came after Tallahassee Circuit Judge Charles A. Francis twice ordered the governor and his lawyers to stop fighting the request for basic information from Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews.
Andrews is seeking documents that identify the IP address of the Gmail accounts held by the governor, First Lady Ann Scott's former assistant Sarah Hansford and Scott's former assistant Brad Piepenbrink.
He alleges that the accounts were opened to allow staff to circumvent Florida's public records law and believes the petition filed in California is an "attempt to delay the release until after the election." He is not asking for the content of the emails but wants information that identifies when the accounts were opened and by whom.
"It seems they have something to hide,'' Andrews said. "Why would the governor spend so much money on California lawyers to stop this from getting to court? If I was a cynic, I would say there's a political motive to this."
The governor's office responded with a statement.
"It's no secret that this case, and its multiple companions, is simply Andrews seeking out revenge for his personal grudge against the Cabinet and state government," said Frank Collins, the governor's communications director.
For the past two years, Andrews has aggressively sought access to public records from the Scott administration and has forced the administration to turn over records of text messages and emails on private accounts that it initially said did not exist.
Andrews said that when he issued the subpoena last week, Google officials told him they had been following the case and were prepared to release the information to him on Wednesday. But the move by the Scott's newly hired lawyers could effectively delay the release of the documents until after the election.