Democratic candidates for governor are hitting Gov. Rick Scott and others hard in the wake of eight deaths in a South Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning as Hurricane Irma hit the state.

But Scott’s office defended the governor’s actions, saying the facility never reported “that conditions had become dangerous.”

A criminal investigation by Broward County law enforcement in underway into the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, including whether they were heat-related or from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called for an independent investigation, slamming Scott for giving out “a special priority phone line – then fail(ing) to act when they received distress calls.”

“I am calling for a full independent investigation into this matter,” Gillum said in a statement. “The investigators must have full access to all public records and transcripts of communications, meetings, and conference calls between the Governor, his Office, and healthcare facilities in preparing for Hurricane Irma.

“In Tallahassee, we learned after Hurricane Hermine that communication is vital between first responders, government, and our most vulnerable populations,” Gillum added. “This year we took the proper steps of assigning utility workers as direct points of contact with nursing homes and other urgent care facilities, and we prioritized their power restoration during Irma.”

Former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham also issued a statement that she had filed a public records request “for all call logs, text messages, and voicemails to a private emergency phone number Rick Scott distributed to healthcare providers.”

Scott, a Naples Republican, was formerly head of a for-profit hospital chain.

“There must be an immediate, independent investigation into reports Gov. Scott distributed a private line to healthcare providers and then ignored pleas for help,” Graham said. “It is 100 percent the governor’s responsibility to do everything in his power

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