POLITICS

Ethics complaint alleges conflict of interest for Gov. Rick Scott

 

In the complaint filed, a Broward County man alleges that Gov. Rick Scott’s past $135,000 investment in Schlumberger LTD., once held in a blind trust, is grounds for a broader investigation into the governor’s portfolio.

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

An investment in a French oil services company that drills in Florida poses a conflict of interest for Gov. Rick Scott, according to a complaint filed with the Commission on Ethics by a Broward County activist.

In the complaint filed this week, John Lundin alleges that Scott’s past $135,000 investment in Schlumberger LTD., once held in a blind trust, is grounds for a broader investigation into Scott’s portfolio. Lundin said he filed the complaint after reading about Scott’s investment in Schlumberger in the Herald/Times on Sunday.

“Gov. Scott’s blind trust does not exempt him from complying with State of Florida ethics laws for financial conflicts of interest,” said Lundin, 60, who now lives in Hollywood.

After becoming governor, Scott set up a blind trust for his extensive investments in 2011. It revealed his stake in Schlumberger LTD, the world’s largest oil services company that is currently involved in oil drilling in Collier County, near the Everglades. Scott and the Cabinet oversee the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates oil drilling in Florida. Scott's release Monday of his tax returns showed he no longer owns interest in the company.

Lundin said that Scott should have instructed his brokerage firm, C.L. King & Associates, to divest his portfolio of any financial investments that he oversees through the DEP.

“Gov. Scott failed to do this, which is a financial conflict of interest,” Lundin states in the complaint.

A campaign spokesman for Scott, Greg Blair, dismissed the complaint as a political stunt.

“Charlie Crist and his friends will do anything to distract from the fact that he and his wife have refused to take the extraordinary step of transparency that Governor Scott and First Lady Ann Scott took yesterday by releasing three years of their income taxes,” Blair said. “The people of Florida know that the Governor no longer has Schlumberger as a financial asset because the Governor fully disclosed all the assets in his blind trust for purposes of qualifying as a candidate yesterday. Hopefully Charlie Crist and his wife will follow the Governor’s example of transparency, but only time will tell.”

Lundin isn’t just going up against the Scott campaign, however. In 2013, the Commission on Ethics wrote an opinion that concluded Scott’s blind trust provides him “protection from certain conflicts of interest and voting conflicts under the Code of Ethics” because he lacked control or knowledge of the investments.

For the Commission on Ethics to find against Scott, Lundin is hoping that it either finds the blind trust is not in compliance with state law, or that it finds fault with its Sept. 18 opinion, CEO 13-14.

Once a complaint is filed, the commission must first determine whether the allegations are legally sufficient, such as indicating a possible violation of a law that the commission has jurisdiction. If the complaint is deemed not to be legally sufficient, it’s dismissed and the records become public. If it is, then a preliminary investigation is launched by the staff of the commission, which must then determine if there is probable cause of a violation of the state’s ethics law.

The complaint will be dismissed if there is none, but if there is, then the case becomes public. The final stage requires the commission to decide if the law was broken and what, if any, penalty to recommend. The accused has a right to request a public hearing, at which evidence is presented. If it’s later determined that the complaint was filed knowingly with false allegations, the person who filed may be subject to legal costs.

It’s an eight member commission in which five were appointed by Scott, so Lundin’s chances of winning, or even getting a hearing, aren’t the greatest.

“I don’t know how they’ll respond,” Lundin said. “But I have a sound legal argument.”

Lundin, a Democrat who has protested oil drilling in the Everglades, is no stranger to filing complaints. He has a current ethics complaint against Georgia Hiller, a Republican Collier County commissioner. He alleges in that complaint that she hacked into his email. Since 1999, he’s filed four complaints with the Florida Elections Commission.

An audio visual technician who works in hotels setting up equipment for presentations, Lundin ran unsuccessfully for the Collier County Commission in 2012. He has since moved to Hollywood, where he lived between 1998 and 2005.

He wrote a 2004 book called Hollywood Gambler about a restaurant and hotel magnate’s mob related death. According to the the book’s listing on Amazon, Lundin’s “about the author” stated he was a member of the Hollywood Democratic Club.

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