Governor Rick Scott was in Tampa this morning, touting his proposed cell phone and TV tax cut that is designed to reduce the average Floridians cable bill by approximately $43 a year.
But that’s not what the press corps was interested in talking about of course, as Scott was besieged once again by questions surrounding the controversial dismissal of FDLE head Gerald Bailey last month.
He said he’d again helpfully provide “the facts,” as he says he has for the past few weeks.
“I believe in change,” he said at an appearance at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. “I believe in bringing in new talent, new energy. I did the same thing in business, that’s what you should do to constantly improve. I believed in change. My staff met with the staff of the other Cabinet members and let them know, and none of them objected. My staff met with Jerry Bailey. He was given the opportunity to step down. He stepped down.”
The governor then took a shot at Bailey, saying that the deposed FDLE head had waited weeks until he knew that his replacement, Rick Swearingen, had been selected by the Cabinet earlier this month, before speaking out.
“Then he made his accusations. The accusations made against me are completely ridiculous and untrue. Those against my staff have all been addressed and rebutted online.”
Bailey’s allegations include the fact that he says he had been forced out of the job after he refused to acquiesce to repeated requests by Governor Scott and his staff to violate policy, take political sides and, in one case, target a county clerk for something she had not done and then falsify a news release.
In Tallahassee yesterday Attorney General Pam Bondi suggested that the firing of Bailey wasn’t even instigated by the governor but by his staff. Much finger pointing has been directed at Melissa Sellers, his 32-year-old chief of staff who previously served as spokesperson for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Scott defended her today.
“I have a great chief of staff. As you know I believe in bringing in new talent, new energy. Melissa Sellers along with my other team is doing a great job.”
In addition to Sellers, it appears that Scott is ready to dump Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty for another Louisiana import, Ron Henderson, who is currently that state’s Deputy Commission of Consumer Advocacy. With the controversy raging about the Bailey situation, WFLA’s Lauren Mayk asked Scott if he would prefer that future agency heads come from Florida?
Scott responded by talking about how many people have migrated to the Sunshine State last year.
“I like people to move here from all over the country. Just last year we had about 300,000, something like that. I want people to continue to move to Florida. I want them to continue to get jobs. It’s exciting what’s going on in our state. Our labor force is growing, jobs are growing…I’m going to continue to recruit companies from out of state, I’m going to continue to recruit people.”
The governor said he’d be happy to answer questions if an independent inquiry takes place in the matter.
Yesterday St. Petersburg based attorney Matt Weidner filed an official complaint asking that the local prosecutor in Tallahassee investigate whether the Cabinet violated the open-meetings law by having staff discuss the ouster of Bailey in private.
The Cabinet is expected to discuss the issue at their next monthly meeting, February 5 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.