TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Just hours after a group representing retired Floridians called for a criminal probe into the matter of Gov. Rick Scott’s deleted voicemail messages from nursing homes before and during Hurricane Irma, the top prosecutor in the state capital said the records did not need to be preserved.
Therefore, an investigation will not be launched into Scott’s deleted voicemails.
More than 50 times, nursing home operators, including the facility where 14 people eventually died, got this message when they called Scott’s cellphone, seeking help during Hurricane Irma: “Your call has been forwarded to an automated voice message system.”
The voicemails, according to the governor’s office, were transcribed for action and then deleted. Just before noon last Tuesday, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans called for an investigation.
“We will never know what was said,” attorney Mark Herron said. “It is, I would think ... inappropriate to destroy that message because it is transmitting knowledge.”
Scott’s office had said he acted lawfully because the records were transitory and of no future value.
Hours after the alliance asked for an investigation, the state attorney said that wouldn’t happen.
“Here, it appears clear they were noted, delegated out, and just as the governor’s office has suggested, were then deleted, so conceivably, others' voice messages could come in,” said State Attorney Jack Campbell, of the Second Judicial Court. “So I don’t believe there is any violation of Florida law, and as such, no need for a criminal investigation.”
One of the people behind the alliance, Barbara Devane, is a well-known advocate for mostly Democratic issues. Before the decision, we asked if her call to investigate was politically motivated.
“But you’re not trying to embarrass the governor?” our reporter asked.
“No,” said DeVane, of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. “I’m just trying to get some answers and some protections.”
The nursing home deaths are expected to be a hot political issue if Scott decides to run for the U.S. Senate next year.
Scott’s potential run against Democrat Bill Nelson is so widely expected that no other known GOP candidate has gotten into the fray.