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Posts for September, 2010

Charlie Crist To Consider Dropping Gay Adoption Lawsuit

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2010

The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida Governor and Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate Charlie Crist is considering dropping a lawsuit challenging a gay couple’s adoption of two foster children that is now on appeal:

“I think we need to review that. My comments really reflect that it’s better to have more of the judicial branch involved in this process. I think that most who follow the judiciary recognize that what’s in the ‘best interest of the child’ is what should be paramount in these kinds of decisions. That’s what I believe and I think that’s what will be the best for them,” Crist, the independent candidate in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, told reporters.

This comes on the heals of last weekend’s revelation that Gov. Crist will back a large number of LGBT equality measures, excluding marriage.

The lawsuit, re the Adoption of John and James Doe, is now before a state appeals court, which is expected to issue a decision at any time. That lawsuit has already caused no end of grief to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who losthis bid for the GOP’s nomination for U.S. Senate. That loss that is partly attributable to controversy surrounding his hiring of George Rekers to serve as an “expert witness” to defend the state’s ban on gay couples adopting children. Rekers was later exposed as a customer of a rentboy while on vacation in Europe. McCullum authorised payment of $120,000 for Rekers’ testimony, which was ultimately dismissed by the trial judge as “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.”

Rekers Failed To Lift McCollum’s Luggage

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2010

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the GOP establishment’s favorite in the race for governor, lost to former insurance executive Rick Scott in Florida’s GOP primary. He conceded the race at almost 1 a.m. via a press release.

“No one could have anticipated the entrance of a multimillionaire with a questionable past who shattered campaign spending records and spent more in four months than has ever been spent in a primary race here in Florida,” McCollum said.

“While I was disappointed with the negative tone of the race, I couldn’t be more proud of our campaign and our supporters for fighting back against false and misleading advertising when we were down by double-digits,” he added.

Among the more contentious issues in the race was McCollum’s hiring of anti-gay extremist George Rekers to the tune of more than $120,000 to serve as a star witness in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s adoption ban for gay couples. That fee was almost double the amount that had been agreed to in a Purchase Requisition between McCollum’s office and Rekers. The court found that Rekers testimony was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science,” and “the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.” Following the trial, Rekers was discovered returning from a European vacation in the company of a male escort. Rekers insisted that he didn’t hire the escort for sex, but needed someone to help him “lift his luggage” during their extended vacation.

McCollum defended his decision to hire Rekers, saying that he performed a “thorough search” for witnesses but “there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.”

McCollum lost the race 46%-43%, in a primary race that badly split the state Republican Party. Democrats were happy with Scott’s victory, seeing him as their preferred opponent going into November’s general election.

McCollum Overruled His Own Staff to Hire Rekers for Florida Case

Jim Burroway

June 4th, 2010

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is now a GOP candidate running for Florida’s governorship, overruled his own main attorney defending the state’s gay adoption ban, and hired the now disgraced anti-gay activists George Rekers for $120,693, according to new information published in today’s Miami Herald Tribune.

The e-mails released Thursday show that an attorney in McCollum’s own office warned against hiring Rekers, whose testimony had been deemed suspect in an earlier Arkansas lawsuit that challenged a ban on placing foster children in homes with gay parents. Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin wrote in a July 2007 e-mail that after talking to Arkansas officials and reviewing the background of the former University of South Carolina professor that she would “recommend NOT using him.”

E-mails also show that during a conference call Martin — who said the state considered more than 30 possible expert witnesses — was ordered to hire Rekers “against my strong cautions.”

Records show that the Department of Children and Families, which brought in the Attorney General’s office to defend the lawsuit, didn’t want to hire Rekers as an expert witness in the lawsuit because he wanted to charge $300 an hour. DCF only agreed to his hiring based on McCollum’s strong recommendations.

The noted anti-gay activist and “expert” witness was later discovered returning from a European vacation with a male escort hired from Rentboy.com. Rekers claims he hired Jo-Vanni Roman to help him “lift his luggage.”

St. Petersburg Times Slams McCollom’s “Sleezy Deal” in Hiring Rekers

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2010

It’s rare to see an editorial filled with so much righteous anger, but this one really takes the prize:

Attorney General Bill McCollum and George Rekers have this in common: They were both happy to hire sleazy services, and they knew what they were getting for the money. Now both are having trouble explaining themselves.

That’s the opening gambit. The editorial board slams McCollum, who is now the GOP candidate for Florida governor, over his hiring Rekers as an “expert” witness” for the state’s defense of the gay adoption ban. McCollum ended up paying Rekers more than $120,000 for Rekers’ “expertise.” McCollum protested that he performed a thorough search for expert witnesses who would testify in support of the ban and that Rekers was the best he could find because “there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.” The paper retorted, “There was not a whole lot of choice because legitimate mental health professionals don’t share Rekers’ homophobic views, and Florida is the only state that bans adoptions by gay residents.”

Also, the paper points out that McCollumn’s search wasn’t all that thorough. Three years earlier, Rekers was blasted by an Arkansas court as “extremely suspect” and that he “was there to primarily to promote his own personal ideology.” Rekers tried to bilk Arkansas $200,000 for his services, but Arkansas paid “only” $60,000. As the Times concluded, Florida deserves a refund. “This is not the sort of sloppy staff work a Republican candidate for governor can easily defend,” they said.

McCollum Doubled Rekers’ Fee For Incompetent Witness Testimony

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2010

Steve Rothous at the Miami Times Herald explains how Florida Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum came to pay disgraced “luggagegate” activist George Rekers more than $120,000:

The 2008 purchase requisition to pay Rekers $60,900. Click to download PDF (1.5 MB/2 pages). Via Miami Herald.

Anti-gay psychologist George Rekers charged Florida $300 an hour to testify as an expert witness in a trial defending Florida’s ban on gay people adopting. The state planned to cap Rekers’ fee at $60,900 — but paid him $120,693 after he exceeded his contracted hours.

“It is not unusual for estimated costs to require adjustment during the course of trial preparation,” said Sandi Copes, communications director for the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

Copes said the extra hours were not agreed to in writing, but “merely by discussion.”

…A 2008 Florida purchase requisition states that no payment to Rekers should exceed $60,900.Florida paid Rekers $60,900 in 2007 and $59,793 in 2009 for his testimony in the case of Frank Gill, a gay foster parent seeking to adopt two young brothers. Florida is the only state that bans all gay people from adopting.

Among Rekers’ charges to the state of Florida:

• $27,000 (90 hours) to “evaluate and critique” new research.

• $5,400 (18 hours) to meet with staff at the Attorney General’s Office to prepare for deposition.

• $6,000 (20 hours) to standby at trial and deliver expert academic opinions.

The 2008 purchase requisition is available here (PDF: 1.5MB/2 pages). And what did they get for all that money? Testimony that the judge found Rekers’ testimony was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.” The judge concluded: “Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”

McCollum personally selected Rekers to be the state’s star expert witness, claiming that “Our attorneys handling this case have searched long and hard for other expert witnesses with comparable expertise to Dr. Rekers and have been unable to identify any who would be available for this case.” A PDF of McCollum’s recommendation and his original suggestion that Rekers be capped at $100,000 is available here (164KB/2 pages). Given the judge’s evaluation of Rekers’ testimony, the sad fact is that McCollum may well have been right: Rekers probably was the best they could find, which speaks volumes about the so-called “expertise” of these anti-gay activists.

Political fallout from Rekers’ rentboy exposure

Timothy Kincaid

May 11th, 2010

When Dr. George Rekers was discovered returning from a 10 day European trip with a young man identified as a gay rentboy, the subsequent scandal ended his career as a advocate for anti-gay causes. Further, it added to the growing shared social understanding that ex-gay efforts are futile and based on pretense.

But although the damage to ex-gay and anti-gay efforts cannot be understated, the liabilities of this scandal are wider than could be expected. It appears that the fallout may extend to conservative politicians and may well derail the presumptive Republican nominee for Florida Governor.

In 2007, Frank Gill sued the state of Florida for the right to adopt the two small boys for whom he had become a foster father. Bill McCollum was attorney general at that time and it was his office which defended the state law that banned gay people from adopting.

The case was ideal for challenging the law. The two boys were non-responsive, suffering from untreated medical conditions, distrustful of everyone else and not bonded to any adults. Gill and his partner were ideal parents, and the turn-around in the boys’ socialization was nearly miraculous.

It was virtually impossible for McCollum’s office to convince any judge that it was in the best interest of these two boys that they be taken from the men with whom they had bonded and finally found a family. But McCollum’s office defended the law to the best of their ability. And the best of their ability included hiring Rekers to argue that gay men, on the whole, are less stable and are unfit parents.

Since the Rekers scandal broke, McCollum has sought to distance himself from Dr. Rekers, insisting that the selection and hiring of George Rekers was the decision of the Department of Children and Families, and that his office simply used the witness they selected.

But the Florida Tribune has now discovered that quite the opposite is true. The DCF didn’t want Rekers, and McCollum insisted that he be hired.

McCollum wrote a July 2007 letter to then DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth where he said his legal team “strongly” recommended the hiring of Rekers, a psychologist once on the faculty of the University of South Carolina and who helped found the Family Research Council back in the ‘80s.

“They believe that this expert and his testimony are necessary to ensure a successful result in this case,’’ wrote McCollum in the letter obtained by the Florida Tribune.

McCollum in his letter noted that initially DCF refused to hire Rekers, due primarily to the potential cost of his fees. Instead the child welfare agency wanted to only hire Walter Schumm, a professor of family studies at Kansas State University.

“Dr. Schumm is a good expert, but his areas of expertise are different from Dr. Rekers,’’ wrote McCollum. “Our attorneys handling this case have searched long and hard for other expert witnesses with comparable expertise to Dr. Rekers and have been unable to identify any who would be available for this case.”

As it turned out, Rekers did a miserable job. His bias was so obvious that the judge wrote in her judgment:

Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.

It probably didn’t help that Rekers, in his testimony, suggested it would be consistent to also ban Native Americans from adopting children in the state. The ban on gay adoptions was overturned, and the state is currently appealing the decision. For which it seems they have employed Dr. George Rekers.

Now Bill McCollum is running for Governor. And the decision to employ Rekers – and pay him in excess of $120,000 – has now become a campaign issue. And it may grow in importance, potentially threatening McCollum’s coronation as Republican candidate for Governor.

Although early finagling resulted in McCollum running without credible primary competition, the Tea Partiers have fielded a candidate with a substantial fortune and a business background. In an attitude of anti-politician anger, McCollum is considered “too establishment.” (TMP)

Scott, a millionaire several hundred times over, jumped into GOP primary on April 13, after months of a campaign that already moved onto the general, with likely GOP nominee McCollum facing off against likely Democratic nominee and state CFO Alex Sink. But a new poll released over the weekend shows Scott has succeeded in forcing McCollum into an unexpected and costly primary fight.

It remains to be seen if Rick Scott will launch attacks on McCollum over his decision to hire Rekers. And, if so, we do not know the tone such ads may take. But there is no doubt that the fallout from the scandal has tainted the Attorney General.

And I think that one of the unexpected results of exposing Dr. George Rekers’ double-life – and revealing the hypocrisy in his testimony – may well be that politicians in the future are more hesitant to present or rely on the testimony of anti-gay activists. The repercussions of the Rekers testimony may encourage politicians who are conscious of their future to steer as far from anti-gays as possible.