BRADENTON, Fla. Florida Gov. Rick Scott “defied” state law by not appointing a lieutenant governor nearly 10 months ago, according to a suit filed with the state Supreme Court.
The suit was filed Monday by Barbara DeVane, a lobbyist for the Florida National Organization for Women and a former social studies teacher.
It asks the court to issue a writ of mandamus compelling Scott to comply with the law and appoint a lieutenant governor in 30 days.
The position has been vacant since Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned on March 12, 2013 amid a sweeping multi-state racketeering investigation into alleged illegal Internet café gambling operations by Allied Veterans of the World, a nonprofit Florida-based organization.
Carroll, who once consulted for Allied Veterans, was not charged.
At the time, Scott said that he recognized Florida law provided for the position but that he would not consider a replacement until after the 2013 legislative session.
Scott, a Republican who is running for reelection this year, has said little about filling the position since Carroll’s resignation.
In published reports Monday, a spokeswoman from Scott’s office said the governor is taking his time “to find the right person.”
DeVane’s complaint said the governor’s refusal to follow the law upsets the order of succession established in statute.
“That statute provides that upon vacancy in the office of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall become governor,” the suit said. “Thus, if the governor resigns amid scandal like his lieutenant or dies, there is no lieutenant governor to fulfill the heavy responsibilities of the office.”
The state attorney general would be next in line to become governor, “further disrupting the orderly business of state government,” according to the complaint.
DeVane argues that there would be a constitutional crisis if the governor became physically or mentally incapacitated, or was impeached.
In those cases, the lieutenant governor would become the acting governor.
Florida law, however, makes no provision for what should happen if the lieutenant governor’s position is vacant before there is an acting governor.
Citing another concern, DeVane said the governor has the authority to declare an emergency if there is an oil spill, and the lieutenant governor can take action in his place.
“Thus, at present, if there is another oil spill and the governor is unavailable for whatever reason, the state will be powerless to respond,” the suit said.
The law requires that the governor make the appointment upon a vacancy, said the suit.
“There is simply no reasonable way to construe this provision to authorize the governor to perpetually refuse to perform his duty,” it said.
The suit does not request that any specific individual be chosen but asks that the court order the “governor to adhere to his duty to make an appointment and do it now.”
The lieutenant governor position is usually filled through election with candidates for governor and lieutenant governor running on a joint ticket.