Claypool described the meetings as "attorney-to-attorney discussions," resulting in no public record. "Scott's lawyer (James Fuller from Williams and Connolly) had a stack of sheets of legal paper that apparently contained lists and lists of his investments, which he referred to occasionally," Claypool said of the meeting at his mother's. "I'm sure Solantic came up generally."
Scott's lawyers did not request a formal advisory opinion, which would have triggered a vetting of potential conflicts by the eight-member ethics commission and resulted in a recommendation that would be binding on Scott. Instead, Claypool and his staff only made suggestions.
"They asked us about precedents and basically there has not been much in the way of precedent," Claypool said. "That's been the extent of our interaction to date."
Florida's ethics commission is not allowed to initiate investigations, but it can respond if a citizen files a complaint.
"I can't tell you why or whether what Gov. Scott did was legal; only the ethics commission could make that determination," Claypool said. "So far he appears to be relying on the advice of his attorneys to comply with the law."
Kenneth Gross, a Washington lawyer and a nationally recognized expert on ethics laws, said Florida is one of the few states where a spouse's investments don't "tag the public official with conflict."
"It's an area that's crying out for attention," he said.
Gross said Scott retains interest in Solantic despite putting it in his wife's revocable trust, where it can be withdrawn at will. He said Scott should have sold his interest in Solantic.
"He may not be in on the day-to-day running of the company and that's nice," Gross said. "But if he has ownership interest by virtue of a revocable trust, he maintains an interest in the welfare of the company."
By continuing to hold it, Scott shows "he thinks it's a viable, thriving business that will continue to make money for himself or his spouse," Gross said.
Brian Burgess, the governor's spokesman, said it's not simple to sell stock in a company that's not publicly traded. "It's not like going onto E-trade and pushing a button," he said.
Scott was well aware that Solantic was unique among his assets in that it was the only one, Burgess said, which was directly regulated by the state. By putting it in Scott's wife's trust, the investment is "publicly visible," he said.
"All of Florida knows where Solantic is parked and how it's being treated right now," Burgess said. "He expects taxpayers to hold him accountable and do the right thing."
Mike Fasano, the Republican state senator from Pasco County, recently refiled a bill he has proposed for years that would require the governor and certain other elected officials to put their investments in a blind trust. He said Scott should have chosen that option for his Solantic shares.
Alex Sink, Florida's former chief financial officer who lost the governor's race to Scott, was heavily criticized for setting up what she called a blind trust, but she knew which assets were in it. And she used her husband's law partner as administrator. Fasano's bill would establish guidelines for blind trusts similar to federal standards.
"A true blind trust is to turn everything over to an independent trustee, without knowing whether the assets have been sold or where the dollars have been invested," Fasano said. "With all great respect to the governor, turning it over to your wife is nice, but it is your wife."