Questions for Governor Scott

From Halifax Media Group


“In Florida’s unique government, three officials and the governor — all elected statewide — share power on the Cabinet.

That power-sharing arrangement is the most compelling reason for Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to grill Gov. Rick Scott over the departure of Gerald Bailey as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The FDLE, an 1,800-member agency, is overseen by the Cabinet.

On Jan. 13, the Cabinet approved the appointment of Rick Swearingen, a longtime member of the department, to be the new commissioner — after Scott said Bailey had resigned.

Subsequently, Bailey said he was forced to resign, and the media started asking questions about the circumstances. Putnam joined in, followed by Atwater and Bondi.

Scott has dodged questions from reporters, but last week his office released some limited statements.

On Dec. 16, according to the governor’s office, Bailey submitted a letter stating that he was “stepping down” as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. However, as Scott’s office wrote, before that date members of the governor’s and Cabinet members’ staffs met. During those meetings, the governor’s staff said Scott “wanted new leadership at FDLE” and “Cabinet staff raised no objection.”

It may be true that Bailey submitted a letter stating that he was stepping down. But for the governor to publicly deny that Bailey was forced to resign is disingenuous.

Scott said more recently that he is always looking for “new leadership,” just as he did as a chief executive of a huge, for-profit hospital chain.

But there are problems with that argument: Scott is now in the public sector and cannot make Cabinet decisions unilaterally, and there are serious doubts about whether Swearingen, an FDLE employee for decades, will deliver the new leadership that the department truly needs.

While reports describe Bailey as widely respected, he had his critics in law enforcement around the state. What’s more, there are questions about whether the FDLE’s resources are properly allocated. Local agencies frequently complain about long delays in the department’s processing of evidence.

Atwater, Putnam and Bondi — all of whom have further political ambitions — should ask their staffs to determine whether Scott’s office did share the governor’s intentions. Also, the Cabinet members ought to explain why they went along with appointing Swearingen without asking many questions.

In any case, Scott owes the Cabinet and the public a thorough explanation of what transpired and why he recommended Swearingen, the insider.

What’s more, although Scott’s office has denied the allegations, some independent organization should investigate Bailey’s assertions that former executive office aides asked him to target — without evidence — a local official in order to find scapegoats for the escape of state prisoners.

Florida’s Cabinet system has its roots in historic distrust of an all-powerful executive. Scott’s handling of Bailey’s departure and his office’s interactions with the FDLE underscore the reasons for that distrust.”

From Halifax Media Group.


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