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Nancy Smith

Will Anyone Investigate Adam Hollingsworth Under Florida's Perjury Statute?

December 16, 2013 - 6:00pm

It probably never occurred to Adam Hollingsworth that the lie he told on a job application in the mid-1990s could set him up for a second-degree felony conviction in 2013.

It probably won't, but it could. The governor's chief of staff is, after all, serving in one of the highest public posts in the state of Florida.

Chapter 837.06 of the Florida Statutes reads, "Whoever knowingly makes a false statement in writing with the intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official duty shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s.775.082 and s.775.083."

Nothing in the law talks about a statute of limitations.

Mary Ellen Klas of the Times-Herald Tallahassee bureau broke the story Dec. 6, revealing Hollingsworth, who worked for CSX Corp. from 1995-2000 and again from 2002-2004, inflated his resume with the transportation giant by claiming he had received a bachelors degree in 1990.

Hollingsworth, 45, denied that falsifying his resume contributed to his departure from CSX in 2004, but he fully, apologetically admitted he lied on his resume.

CSX is a private employer, therefore the "intent to mislead a public servant ..." as stated in Chapter 837.06 doesn't apply -- at least, not literally.

Proof of Hollingsworth's phony claims came in CSX press releases, first from March 1998 stating he graduated from the University of Alabama in 1990 with a degree in Communications; then in 2002, when he was named vice president of communications. In that release he was called a Prime F. Osborn Scholar at the University of Alabama who graduated with a degree in communications.

The Times-Herald confirmed that on his application with the city of Jacksonville in 2004, and on a previous application in 1994, Hollingsworth answered truthfully, that he only "attended" the University of Alabama.

But Hollingsworth dropped out of the University of Alabama in the 1980s to go to work for Democratic Congressman Charles Bennett of Jacksonville. Presumably, Bennett knew he was hooking the young man out of school before he graduated, but who knows, maybe not. Will there be an investigation? That was a public-sector job. Will anybody backtrack and look at his resume there?

Hollingsworth then spent several years in two other public-sector positions, working for U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and former Jacksonville Mayor Ed Austin. Will an investigation reach back to see what education creds he was claiming to win those jobs?

Attorneys around Tallahassee have told me an investigation of a high-profile employee like the governor's chief of staff is the job of Attorney General Pam Bondi's office. Maybe, but that's not likely to happen. The only investigations the attorney general's office conducts are for Medicaid fraud. It would take an extraordinary nudge from Gov. Rick Scott to launch Bondi on a probe of Adam Hollingsworth -- and why would he do that? He's said repeatedly he loves the guy.

The governor's office, meanwhile, responds to all press questions on this issue with a pat statement signed by Scott's communication director, Melissa Sellers: "The EFI application, which Adam completed after 2009 when he had his degree, did not request a graduation date, so one was not provided. Reading anything else into that completely ignores the two other state applications, also filled out after 2009, which include information about the 2009 degree."

In other words, the position of the governor's office is Hollingsworth was good-to-go when he signed on to his current job. He didn't lie to us. Case closed.

I know if I -- and probably you, too -- were caught falsifying our resumes, we would be hustled into an unemployment line before our dinner got cold. That's what I would expect to happen. That's how it's supposed to happen for employees in positions where credibility and public trust are paramount.

I'd bet my paycheck that nobody is going to investigate Adam Hollingsworth for potential criminal misconduct, let alone officially call for his resignation. Tallahassee isn't the real world.

In fact, I think Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog nailed it in a bloglast week explaining why Hollingsworth is going to skate on this one. He said, 1)"the silos are empty," Hollingsworth's enemies have fired their best shots, they haven't got anything else; 2) it's the holidays ... "bloggers go to Disney World, reporters go to North Carolina;" 3) the administration may have ethical standards, but in Rick Scott's shrinking inner circle, there's simply no one to replace Hollingsworth.

"Besides," writes Schorsch, the governor "is so paranoid of the media ... a scandal like this probably endears Hollingsworth to Scott, rather than estranges him."

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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