APRIL 12, 2011
An ethics complaint has been filed against Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, for abusing the power of his office to financially benefit a chain of medical clinics that represent the single biggest chunk of his vast fortune.Scott, who was embroiled in a federal fraud investigation before moving into the governor’s mansion earlier this year, assures there is no conflict because his wife controls his $62 million investment in the walk-in clinics. A few days before taking office in January, Scott transferred his shares to his wife precisely to avoid any conflict of interest.Here is where it gets a little hairy for the Republican lawmaker who never held public office before this year. The healthcare policies he’s pushing would translate into hefty profits for hisFlorida chain of 32 urgent-care centers known as Solantic Corp. Scott co-founded Solantic in 2001 and was involved in its operation until last year, according to the newspaper story that connected the dots this month.Concentrated in the middle part of the state and along the east coast, Solantic clinics provide the medical version of one-stop shopping. Patients can get stitches, physicals and immunizations or they can receive treatment for a sprain or virus. The drug testing of all state workers, switching Medicaid patients to private Health Maintenance Organizations and downsizing public clinics that Scott is pushing will likely benefit Solantic.Another area of concern is that, as governor, Scott appoints the officials who head the state agencies that license, inspect and investigate complaints against healthcare providers such as Solantic. The woman who co-founded Solantic with Scott, chief executive Karen Bowling, dismisses the possibility that state regulators will be influenced by Scott and says inspection complaints are handled under a formal and public process anyways.Incredibly, Florida has no provisions banning elected officials from promoting policies that financially benefit family. Considering Scott’s past, this should be unsettling to residents of theSunshine State. After all, he was ousted as chief executive of a major hospital chain amid a huge federal billing fraud investigation that cost the company $1.7 billion in penalties. Scott walked away with $10 million in severance and $300 million in stock, part of which he used to start Solantic.
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