Florida Governor Rick Scott Accused of Deleting Voicemails from Nursing Home Where 11 Died After Hurricane Irma

Voicemails left on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s cellphone by employees of the Hollywood nursing home where 11 died in the post-Hurricane Irma heat have been deleted, according to the governor’s office.

Scott gave out his number to nursing homes and assisted living facilities ahead of the hurricane so administrators could report concerns, according to a timeline released by Scott’s office. In the days following Irma, the staff at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills called four times. But the messages they left the governor weren’t kept, as first reported by CBS4’s Jim DeFede.

“The voicemails were not retained because the information from each voicemail was collected by the governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling. Every call was returned,” Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, said in a statement on Sunday.

The calls would have provided critical evidence for what the nursing home told the governor’s office, which has repeatedly said wasn’t told residents there were in danger.

Julie Allison, attorney for the nursing home, was traveling Sunday and was unavailable for comment.

So why weren’t the voicemails kept?

Scott’s office cited them as “transitory messages,” which can be deleted after they become obsolete or lose administrative value. According to state law, transitory messages have short-term value. Examples include announcements of office events, such as holiday parties or group lunches.

Scott’s office forwarded the content of the messages left by the nursing home to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health.

According to a timeline released by the governor’s office, the first call was received by Scott’s aides at 7:35 p.m. Sept. 11. The chief of staff for the Department of Health returned the call about two hours later, asking administrator Natasha Anderson to call 911 if she believed patients were at risk.

The last call to Scott’s cellphone from the rehabilitation center, according to the governor’s timeline, was received by aides at 12:50 p.m. Sept. 12. Those calls were returned by state healthcare administrators later that day.

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Miami Herald