Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet voted Tuesday to spend up to $50,000 in additional legal fees for an outside counsel to represent the Cabinet, the fifth named defendant in a lawsuit by more than a dozen news outlets over the ouster of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Scott and all three Cabinet members are individual defendants in the case of Weidner v. Scott, which accuses them of violating the Sunshine Law. The suit also names the Cabinet as a defendant, but the Cabinet as a separate entity has no representation in the case. Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state risks being “in default” with a court if the Cabinet has no representation by April 6 and no time extension is granted.
The four officials agreed to let Bondi’s office accept applications from interested firms willing to offer discounted rates. They scheduled two rare telephonic Cabinet meetings at 8 a.m. on March 31 and April 1, first to review the list of applicants and to pick a firm the next day.
Scott briefly left the dais during the meeting to confer with his counsel, Tim Cerio. When he returned, he tried to accelerate the hiring process by letting Bondi alone choose a law firm. But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam objected and called it “troublesome” that he would have no say in the hiring of the Cabinet’s counsel, and Scott quickly relented.
The issue of hiring legal representation for the Cabinet was a last-minute item added to Tuesday’s agenda after Bondi took the unusual step of using the “good cause” provision in state law. The lawsuit by the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and other news outlets accuses Scott and Cabinet members of violating the Sunshine Law by orchestrating Bailey’s Dec. 16 ouster through private talks among their aides. The news outlets seek a court injunction prohibiting such private conversations in the future.
Scott, Bondi, Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater together have hired nearly a dozen private attorneys to represent them in the case, which is before Circuit Judge George Reynolds in state court in Tallahassee. Bailey is scheduled to give a videotaped deposition on Wednesday, April 22.
Original article here.