Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a request from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to consider a search for a new head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Scott wants the cabinet to consider changes at the departments of insurance regulation, financial regulation, and revenue. The exchange comes as Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into the ouster of former FDLE head Gerald Bailey.
The Florida cabinet is made up of Governor Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. But it’s Scott who has the power to appoint agency heads. That’s what he did back in December when he named Rick Swearingen as the new Secretary of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The problem though—is how the previous agency head—Gerald Bailey--- departed. Bailey says he was forced to resign. And that’s not sitting well with top state officials. Tuesday House Minority Leader Mark Pafford called for the Florida cabinet to reconsider Bailey’s ouster.
“One of the members could call for that—review what occurred, ask some questions and really have a discussions where some of us who are extremely concerned—could have some answers," Pafford said. " That seems to be the biggest problem right now.”
Cabinet members at first said they were told Bailey resigned voluntarily but later learned he was forced out. In a statement to the News Service of Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam says he wants to make sure the cabinet is more involved in the hiring and firing of cabinet agency heads. But didn’t say whether the cabinet would revisit the Bailey issue.
Meanwhile Senate Democratic Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner says she believes the Florida Ethics Commission should look into Bailey’s firing. That would take someone filing an ethics complaint.
“No one questioned the governor. And to take a man who has given his life as a real public servant in law enforcement in this state and to remove him smacks of shenanigans that we know nothing about," Joyner said.
Bailey says Scott’s administration tried to get him to quash an investigation into a potential board appointee and falsely name the Orange County Clerk of Court as a target in an investigation into the escape of several prisoners. The Governor’s office denies the allegations. Senate President Andy Gardiner did not say whether he supports an investigation but notes it’s up to the Senate to confirm any gubernatorial appointee. When asked the same question House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said he was “concerned” about the allegations against the Governor, but that it, “is yet to be seen how much of this is just ugly politics.”