Tallahassee attorney Seven Andrews has been on a crusade to prove that Gov. Rick Scott used his private Gmail account to circumvent around Florida's public records law. Andrews convinced the courts to have Google subpoenaed to turn over basic information about Scott's private email accounts.
And now, just a couple of weeks after Scott admitted to having used the email address without forwarding it to the proper parties, Andrews has been given permission to try and prove that Scott did it intentionally, and broke the law in the process.
On Monday, Chief Judge Charles Francis granted Andrews permission to use the more than 200 emails released last month to try and prove his case.
Andrews had filed a lawsuit in 2013 claiming that Scott had violated the public records law, but this latest ruling will allow him to amend that suit. Andrews contends that he wanted to purchase some land where his law office is located in Tallahassee. Scott wants wants a museum on the land, which is adjacent to the historic home of former Florida governor LeRoy Collins. Andrews says that Scott didn't become interested in the land until Andrews expressed interest in buying it.
Since the suit was filed, Scott has asked the judge to wait on a ruling until after last November's elections. He also skipped out on a deposition about the case in order to attend a fundraiser. Scott was also able to have his attorneys fight the Google subpoena.
Then, last month, when the emails were made public, Scott released a statement admitting wrongdoing, but explaining that it was unintentional.
The emails in question were sent between 2011 and 2012, with a few sent in 2013. Some of the emails were exchanges with former Scott Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara, and dealt with state budget matters, vetoes, and Scott's speeches.
Andrews has been alleging that Scott's staff had been encouraged to use Gmail accounts to get around Florida's public records law, and things seemed to point to that when some MacNamara emails surfaced earlier this year.
A judge eventually told Scott to stop fighting the subpoena and to hand over the details on the email accounts being requested. But the AP reports that Scott's lawyers had said there were no such emails from a private account to release to Andrews.
But, on November 24, Scott's office released the emails showing the governor discussing administrative business.
Scott's lawyers filed notice for a November 7 hearing -- three days after the election.
"He's flouting the public records laws by using taxpayer money to defend his own misconduct,'' Andrews told the Miami Herald in November. "If he would sign an affidavit that he never used any private emails for public business, then that assertion will ring more true."
On Monday, the court said it would allow Andrews to amend his lawsuit, though it said that he would not be allowed to include a separate complaint alleging of public records altering by the chief of staff of former Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll.
"It's a violation of the public records laws to wait 18 months to produce records...and then two years after we request them they suddenly produce emails,'' Andrews argued in court.