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Feds Probe Rick Scott on Firing of FDLE Chief

Image: Feds Probe Rick Scott on Firing of FDLE Chief
(Phelan Ebenhack/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 02:02 PM

Ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who oversaw the state police, said he met two weeks ago with federal prosecutors who have been urged to probe his dismissal and his claims of political interference by Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Bailey said he met with members of U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh's staff in Tallahassee, but her agency declined to discuss its interest in the case, according to a report from Steve Bousquet in the Tampa Bay Times and Bradenton Herald.

Bailey has said he was in his office on Dec. 16 when he was ordered by Scott's former counsel Pete Antonacci to vacate his job as FDLE commissioner.

Scott immediately replaced him with one of Bailey's assistants, Rick Swearingen, who had overseen the FDLE security detail that protects the governor and first lady.

Scott claimed that Bailey resigned, but Bailey asserted: "I did not voluntarily do anything. If he said I resigned voluntarily, that is a lie. If he said that. He's being totally untruthful."

Bailey's dismissal has led to a lawsuit by dozens of news outlets seeking Bailey's sworn testimony. The news organizations, along with open government advocates and St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner, accuse Scott and three Cabinet members who also oversee FDLE of violating the Sunshine Law by removing Bailey from his job with no public discussion or vote.

The Cabinet members are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Atwater is a possible U.S. Senate candidate next year and Putnam is regarded as a leading candidate for Florida governor in 2018.

"With Scott's credibility in question and with two Cabinet members likely to run for higher office, the possibility of further political fallout from Bailey's testimony could speed up negotiations to settle the case before it goes to trail," Bousquet observed.

Bailey has agreed to testify under oath in a videotaped deposition scheduled for April 22.

One of the most serious allegation from Bailey is that former Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth pressured him to claim that the acting clerk of court in Orange County, Colleen Reilly, was the target of a 2013 FDLE criminal inquiry after two prison inmates used forged papers from her office to plot an escape, the Miami Herald reported.

Such a move would have shifted the blame from the agency that released the prisoners, the Department of Corrections, which Scott oversees. Bailey refused to cooperate. Scott has denied the allegation.

"You don't go to the top law enforcement officer and say: 'Hey we want you to criminally charge another elected official in this state that has no basis," Alex Sink, Florida's former CFO and Republican Scott's Democratic opponent for governor in 2010, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "That's very scary."

Bailey also said Scott's campaign asked FDLE agents to transport a campaign worker in a state car, but FDLE refused.

Democratic State Sen. Arthenia Joyner has called for an outside investigation of the Bailey case. She said of the U.S. attorney's interest: "I'm happy to know that our plea to have an outside look at this has been heeded and hopefully we can get to the bottom of what happened."




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Ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who oversaw the state police, said he met two weeks ago with federal prosecutors who have been urged to probe his dismissal and his claims of political interference by Gov. Rick Scott's office. Bailey...
baileys, rick, scott, firing
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2015-02-18
Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 02:02 PM
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