TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is being sued over his decision to leave the post of lieutenant governor vacant for nearly nine months.
A Tallahassee lobbyist and political activist on Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to force Scott to appoint a lieutenant governor within 30 days.
Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned last March after she was interviewed by law-enforcement authorities about work she once did for a charity that was a front for a widespread gambling ring. She has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
She later said that she was forced to resign.
In her lawsuit, Barbara DeVane contends that Scott is breaking a state law that requires him to appoint a lieutenant governor.
“I just think it’s time he does his job,” DeVane told The Associated Press. “It’s been nine months. A woman could have conceived and delivered a baby in that time.”
Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Scott, did not respond directly to the lawsuit, but said the governor is not changing his timeline for deciding when a lieutenant governor will be chosen.
“The governor is going to take the right time to find the right person,” Sellers said.
DeVane, who is registered to lobby for the Florida National Organization for Women, has a long-standing history of being a political activist for many causes linked to Democrats. The lawsuit is being handled by Donald Hinkle, a well-known attorney who has already donated money to the campaign of Charlie Crist. Crist, who is now a Democrat, is running against Scott.
“Of course, everything these days is political, but I’m not doing this for any political party,” DeVane said. “I’m just doing it because I’m a citizen and a taxpayer who thinks the governor should follow the law and do his job.”
Florida went nearly 100 years without the post of lieutenant governor until it was revived in 1968. The job, which pays nearly $125,000, has no real defined responsibilities besides replacing the governor if he leaves office or dies.
That has happened twice, for brief periods. In January 1987, Wayne Mixson was governor for three days when Bob Graham resigned to be sworn in as a U.S. senator. In December 1998, Buddy MacKay became governor when Lawton Chiles died of a heart attack less than a month before his term was over.
If something happened to Scott before he picked a lieutenant governor, Attorney General Pam Bondi would take over.
Back in August, Scott said he does not plan to remain without a lieutenant governor indefinitely. “Florida laws make it clear that our state has a lieutenant governor,” Scott said in a statement at the time.
Florida law states that when there is a vacancy in the position of lieutenant governor the governor “shall appoint a successor.”
Shortly after Carroll resigned, Scott shuttered her office and let go of the employees who had worked in the office. Scott initially said that he planned to wait until after the 2013 legislative session — which ended in early May — before he would begin looking for a new lieutenant governor. He also said that he planned to put his chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, in charge of the search.
Since that time, various names have surfaced in connection with the position. A public records request shows that Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman texted Hollingsworth on Nov. 8 to thank him for the interview and that she was “honored to be considered for the governor’s dynamic team.”
The lawsuit states that Scott has “defied the Legislature’s directive” by failing to name a lieutenant governor. It goes on to say that his actions have “upset the order of succession” and that a “constitutional crisis” could occur if Scott were physically or mentally incapacitated or impeached since the law envisions the lieutenant governor taking over in those instances.
Scott, who is running for re-election, is required to tap someone as his running-mate two months before the November elections. Scott, however, is under no obligation to appoint that person to the position before the election.
Some Florida constitutional scholars have previously said it would be unlikely that a court would order the governor to act to name a lieutenant governor since there is no deadline or enforcement provision in the law.