Scott won’t assign special prosecutor to investigate matter
By Jennifer Portman
Democrat senior writer
Gov. Rick Scott rejected a request by the First Amendment Foundation on Friday that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the ouster of the former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Gerald Bailey and the hiring of his replacement.
A Scott spokesman said the governor will not go over the head of State Attorney Willie Meggs, who has said he has no plans to investigate the matter.
In an open letter to Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet, the group’s president, Barbara Petersen, called for Meggs to “step aside.” She argued the lack of transparency surrounding the forced resignation of Bailey, a respected 35-year law enforcement veteran, demands public scrutiny.
“We think it imperative that an independent investigation be conducted to address the serious constitutional issues related to Bailey’s departure,” she wrote in the letter. “The continuing controversy erodes public trust and confidence in the highest levels of our government.”
Scott sent a lawyer to tell Bailey to resign Dec. 16 from his eight year post as head of FDLE. But the circumstances surrounding his departure were not revealed until after a Jan. 13 Cabinet meeting, when the governor and Cabinet approved Bailey’s successor, former Capitol Police Director Rick Swearingen.
Cabinet members later said they were led to believe Bailey had retired or resigned, not that the governor had forced him out. FDLE is not a governor’s agency, but is jointly overseen by Scott and the three Cabinet officers.
Since the story broke, there have been numerous calls for investigations by state or federal agencies and a group of media organizations has filed a lawsuit alleging Scott used his staff as “conduits” to avoid Florida open records and meetings law. Scott has since conceded he mishandled the matter.
“The continuing controversy erodes public trust and confidence in the highest levels of our government.”
First Amendment Foundation