Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet met in Tampa Thursday and began an awkward and overdue discussion of how to improve how they do the public’s business to prevent a repeat of the fiasco that has led to the forced resignation of a top police official, demands for investigations and a lawsuit alleging Sunshine Law violations.
The four statewide elected officials were forced to respond to a series of reports by the Times/Herald involving the sudden and suspicious ouster before Christmas of a respected state law enforcement official, Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
It was an extraordinary session for Scott and the Cabinet, which appeared shell-shocked by the events that began to unfold last month in the wake of Bailey’s forced ouster. Meeting in an equestrian center at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Scott acknowledged for the first time that the removal of Bailey — by Scott’s lawyer, on three hours’ notice, with no public discussion and no vote — could have been handled differently.
“While I wanted to bring in new leadership at FDLE as we transitioned to a second term in office, it is clear, in hindsight, that I could have handled it better,” Scott said in prepared remarks. “The buck stops here, and that means I take responsibility.”
For the next 90 minutes, the four Republican statewide officials discussed how to repair the bureaucratic wreckage caused by the Bailey controversy. Snakebit by allegations of secret decision-making, they took no votes after Attorney General Pam Bondi said the wording of the agenda item by Scott’s office called for “discussion” with no votes taken.