Bill McCollum Hired George Rekers Despite Strong Warnings From Staff

Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is running for Governor as a Republican, has tried to distance himself from anti-gay activist George Rekers, but recently released emails show that McCollum hired Rekers as an expert witness for the state in a gay adoption case even as top members of his staff strongly warned against it.

New Times uncovered that Rekers had taken a European vacation with an openly gay, male escort he likely met off and received nude massages. Since then Rekers has resigned from numerous anti-gay groups. McCollum had paid Rekers $120,000 in tax payer money to testify in a Miami-Dade case against gay adoption.

Emails uncovered by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's Gary Fineout show that McCollum personally pushed to hire Rekers even after several warnings not to.

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."

Rekers had previously represented the state of Arkansas in a similar case.

Martin's worries about Rekers appear to stem from his flimsy use of science in denying rights to homosexuals, and not from any rumors about his personal life.

"There were discussions and there were differences of opinion among our attorneys over the hiring of this expert witness. There was a decision made ultimately by me," McCollum told the Herald-Tribune.

While McCollum's office defends Reker's six-figure fee, his testimony was completely ignored by Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman in the case where a gay man was trying to officially adopt two boys he had cared for for years despite Florida's ban on adoption by homosexuals.

"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 can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy," Lederman wrote in her November 2008 decision.

Ultimately she deemed the ban unconstitutional. Appeals are still working their way through the court system, and may eventually hit the state supreme court.

Florida Democrats have asked McCollum to pay back the $120,000 he paid to Rekers.

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Kyle Munzenrieder

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