Teamsters Fail in Ethics Claim Against Rick Scott; 'Pay-to-Play' Rejected
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The state Commission on Ethics on Wednesday rejected the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ charge that political contributions spurred Gov. Rick Scott to push for prison privatization.
The commission ruled the Teamsters’ allegations failed to “constitute a legally sufficient complaint” or “indicate, in a substantive, factual manner, a possible violation.”
The Teamsters, who are trying to replace the Police Benevolent Association as the bargaining unit for the state's corrections officers, held a news conference last month to announce their allegations of a "pay to play" scenario in the governor’s office.
The union noted that Boca Raton-based GEO Group and Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, both major players in the prison privatization bidding process, gave a combined $30,000 for Scott’s inaugural fund.
“Alleged receipt by the governor’s inaugural fund of contributions from GEO and CCA, coupled with the complainant’s use of the phrase 'pay to play’ politics, does not equate to the quid-pro-quo, criminal-bribery-like understanding allegation required to indicate a possible violation,” the ethics ruling states.
Ken Wood, acting president of Teamsters Local 2011, whose name was on the complaint, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The governor’s office did not respond to an email for comment Wednesday.
The legislative budget, which Scott signed in May, includes a plan to privatize 29 prison facilities in South Florida. The plan has been put on hold since Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulfold declared the Legislature should have approved the privatization effort as a separate stand-alone bill.
In filing the ethics complaint, the Teamsters claimed Scott failed in his duty as chairman of the state Board of Administration, which oversees the state’s investments in relation to the Florida Retirement System.
The two companies have also contributed nearly $1 million in contributions to state candidates and political parties in the 2010 election cycle.
Meanwhile, the state has more than $7 million invested in the two companies.
In announcing their complaint, the Teamsters admitted they hoped the ethics investigators could find the pay-for-play link.
When the complaint was filed, the governor’s office rejected that the inauguration fund shaped policy.
“Between 200 and 300 companies and individuals donated to the inauguration fund,” spokesman Lane Wright wrote at the time. “And that money went to the Republican Party of Florida, in total compliance with the law, not to Governor Scott directly.”
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.