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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Don't run government like Rick Scott ran his business

Published May 16, 2018

It's probably the curse of age, but whenever I'm exposed to one of Gov. Rick Scott's dubious campaign ads the mind tends to recall the routine by the late comedy team of Bob & Ray involving the proudly preening corrupt mayor of Skunkhaven, N.J.

Perhaps you've seen a recent Scott ad in which the governor faux earnestly bemoans what a sad state of affairs it is that government isn't run more like a business. And yes, you could be forgiven for that nasty spit-take of coffee across the breakfast table.

Scott holding himself up as a paragon of savvy business acumen is a bit like Sonny Corleone claiming to be an expert in anger management. It was Scott who was forced out as CEO from his own company, Columbia/HCA, before it was fined $1.7 billion by the federal government for what was at the time the largest case of Medicare fraud in the nation's history.

It was also Scott who claimed his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times during a deposition in an unrelated legal matter.

And now this chap is lecturing voters about running government more like a business? What business is he referring to? Enron?

Perhaps when the guy running against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson yearns to run government more like a business, what he really means is he would like to see the halls of Washington more closely resemble Tammany Hall.

For while Scott was declaring he wants to drive lay-about, do nothing paper-pushers from public service, in Tallahassee his administration was sure looking like a Medici family reunion.

As the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau's Mary Ellen Klas has reported, key employees at the Department of Revenue have been purged and replaced with political cronies from the governor's office with little to no experience in tax administration.

For example, Brandi Gunder, 32, a former budget coordinator for Scott with zero tax expertise, was named director of the Office of Property Tax Oversight, replacing Maurice Gregory, who had 30 years of experience.

Tom "TJ" Adams, 31, who also has no tax experience, was appointed Gunder's deputy, succeeding Timisha Brooks, a lawyer, who had been working her way up through the agency for the past eight years.

Shelby Cecil, 24, with — ditto — no tax experience, was given the job of budget manager for the PTO office.

And Patricia Knight, 49, was named compliance manager for the PTO, a position that requires the employee to have a law degree, which Knight does not have.

On their meteoric rise up the bureaucratic chain, none of these new employees even filled out applications. They simply were hired as if by magic. They all shared one vital entry on their resumes — unswervingly loyal apparatchiks in the service of the governor.

But wait! There's more. Let's head on down to the accounting department at Gov. Rick Scott Inc.

In addition to the Scott commercial calling for government to be run more like a business, he has begun running another commercial suggesting Nelson has been spending decades as the Maynard G. Krebs of the Senate.

With great indignation, the ad produced by the Scott-controlled New Republican PAC notes that Nelson has spent 44 years in elected office glomming onto $4.5 million in taxpayer funded paychecks.

That sure sounds like a great deal of money. But apparently Scott assumes those saps in the public don't have access to a calculator. Because if you merely do some simple math, that multi-million dollar windfall Nelson has supposedly collected comes out to about $102,272.27-a-year for the past 44 years. A nice number to be sure, but we're hardly in Sultan of Brunei financial territory here.

By contrast, Scott was ushered out the door with a $10 million severance package and $300 million worth of Columbia/HCA stock — and that was just for being at the helm of the company when it royally — ahem — bungled things up.

Maybe what all this campaign jibber-jabber really suggests is there is no business like Rick Scott's business.

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