Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson wants the U.S. Senate to investigate the deaths at a sweltering Broward County nursing home that had its air conditioning knocked out by Hurricane Irma — a probe that would put the spotlight on Nelson’s likely 2018 challenger, Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Nelson was the second high-profile Democrat today to zero in on Scott and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 patients have died.
Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham accused Scott of a “possible cover-up” because his office deleted four voicemail messages from the nursing home to his personal cell phone in the 36 hours before the first patient died.
Graham filed a public records request asking Scott’s office “to attempt to recover deleted voicemails from the Hollywood Hills nursing home.”
Scott said the voicemail messages were deleted to free up space on his cell phone after aides retrieved the messages and state officials responded to them.
“The nursing home administrators placed four separate calls to my cell phone, like hundreds of others did during the storm. In each instance, the calls were promptly returned by state officials, and the voicemails were immediately deleted so the voicemail box had room for more incoming messages,” Scott said.
“In none of these calls did the staff indicate that any of their patients were in danger. I gave my cell phone number out as a courtesy to any group during the hurricane that needed access to state resources. It’s a ridiculous and irrational suggestion that my personal cell phone is somehow a substitute for 911,” Scott said.
Graham agreed in part with Scott.
“There’s no question Hollywood Hills should have called 911 — but the question still remains, could the state have done more to help?” Graham said.
Nelson’s letter doesn’t mention Scott, but asks the Senate Finance Committee to look into the state’s role in certifying the nursing home and to examine “the state’s response in the aftermath of the Florida incident.”