Peter Schorsch: What’s the Scott administration going to do about Bailey’s firing?

A new scandal exploded across Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon after Gov. Rick Scott admitted that Gerald Bailey did not voluntarily resign as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but was forced out against his will. Under Florida law, the governor cannot fire the head of FDLE without the support of at least one other member of the Cabinet.

As of late Tuesday evening, not a single member of the Cabinet admits supporting Scott’s decision to oust Bailey. In fact, all three Cabinet members have made statements that they were told Bailey had not been fired, but voluntarily resigned.

Attorney General Pam Bondi specifically stated, “My office was told Commissioner Bailey was resigning and was never told anything other than that.”

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, facing a barrage of questions from the Capitol press corps, made a similar statement: “He informed us that he was stepping down.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam made similar comments, both back in December and again yesterday. The Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquet even wrote on December 16 that Putnam “was surprised by the news.”

So we have all three Cabinet members, on the record, saying they were told that Bailey voluntarily resigned from his position, a claim that is now contradicted by Bailey’s explicit statement that he was given an ultimatum by Scott’s general counsel, Pete Antonacci, to “retire or resign.”

Bailey even went so far as to say, “If he said I resigned voluntarily, that is a lie.”

With pressure mounting on Scott late Tuesday, he finally came clean and admitted that Bailey was forced out. But this admission only raised new questions about the governor’s actions and those of the Cabinet.

This comes alongside a clutch of other revelations that Democrats are pouncing on. Bailey claims, for instance, that he received solicitations via email to donate to Scott’s re-election campaign in violation of state law. Following a complaint to the Governor’s Office, General Counsel Pete Antonacci’s advice? “Just delete it.”

Deletion of such an email may constitute destruction of public records, no small inconvenience for an administration already dogged by criticism it has flouted Florida’s signature sunshine laws.

If the Cabinet members are telling the truth, then Rick Scott’s administration broke the law by lying to them and circumventing its authority to hire and fire the FDLE commissioner.

The question is: What are they going to do about it?

Peter Schorsch is a political consultant and new media publisher based in St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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