Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi avoiding controversial questions on lawsuits

1:10 PM, Aug 14, 2013   |    comments
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
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ST PETERSBURG, Florida - Governor Scott stood in front of reporters, photographers, and video cameras Tuesday to answer questions about the state's new lawsuit that aims to end a long-standing interstate squabble over water consumption.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who filed the case, also issued a statement to the press.

Yet Bondi and Scott have brushed off questions about another recently-filed state lawsuit that could adversely affect waterfront land owners across Florida, as well as most of the state's cities and counties.

Last month, Scott and the Florida Cabinet - which includes Bondi, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, and CFO Jeff Atwater - filed a suit against St. Petersburg property owners Rick and Kelly Ware.  The lawsuit attempts to reclaim a private dock on Coffee Pot Bayou that had been bought and sold as real property for 130 years.

However, the potential precedent the land-grab could set would affect nearly 100 docks along Coffee Pot Bayou (which mean millions to city and county tax rolls) as well as tens of thousands of other private and municipal properties around the state.  St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster and State Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, are among the local leaders who have told 10 News they have great concerns about the suit.

But when 10 News approached the Cabinet about its Coffee Pot Bayou lawsuit, Bondi claimed she couldn't ethically comment on the case because she was the filing attorney, even though she was also a plaintiff in the case and routinely makes a habit of commenting on suits filed by her office.

And Scott, who turned down 10 News' numerous requests for one-on-one interviews unless he could choose the topics, only addressed the issue when he was questioned during a general media availability last week.  His answers did little to address the questions:

When asked about citizens' concerns that the Coffee Pot Bayou lawsuit could invalidate waterfront deeds all over the state, Scott replied, "it's in the courts; that's the right process to make sure that the right thing happens there." 

When asked why the state was looking to stake a claim over property it hadn't controlled in 130 years, the governor repeated, "this is set up to go through the court system to make sure the right thing happens."

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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