Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members will settle a three-year-old legal battle next week that will give the state access to property it wants to acquire to build a park near the Governor’s Mansion.
The four officials plan to approve a settlement of three separate lawsuits at a Cabinet meeting next Wednesday. But that won’t completely end the legal wars between Scott and Steve Andrews, an outspoken and politically active personal injury lawyer.
Scott has proposed a redesign of the land around the mansion, which is shielded from the public’s view by a pawn shop, rooming house and electronics store.
Three years ago, Andrews tried to block the state from acquiring three lots and a 1924 two-story house that serves as his Tallahassee office for the park project.
Andrews won Round 1 in circuit court, but Scott appealed. As part of the discovery process in his lawsuit, Andrews found that Scott and his staff used private email accounts for official business. Against the governor’s objections, he succeeded in getting a California judge to compel Google to disclose the electronic addresses of computers used to create the accounts.
After the governor’s office claimed it was not the custodian of the records of several of his former aides, Andrews sued them individually to obtain access to the public records relating to his dispute. Settlement talks began soon after.
Those legal issues remain unresolved and are not part of the proposed settlement. Scott’s office did not respond to questions of whether those claims will soon be settled, but a state appeals court planned to schedule a trial in the near future.
Andrews declined to comment Wednesday.
Under the settlement, Andrews will keep his office at 822 N. Monroe St. in Tallahassee, but the state has the right of first refusal if he sells it.
Andrews will grant the state a permanent parking easement and each side will pay its own fees.
Craig Varn, general counsel to the Department of Environmental Protection, said Scott’s legal costs were handled by state lawyers.
The Cabinet members — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — are not named defendants in the lawsuits, but Andrews sued them and Scott in their roles as trustees of a state board that makes land acquisition decisions at Cabinet meetings.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story online mischaracterized the terms of the proposed settlement.