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Gov. Scott's First Big Challenge of New Term: A Legal Scandal

PHOTO: Gov. Rick Scott answers reporters' questions, and there are a lot of them, amid allegations of improper oversight of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Photo credit: Sara K. Brockmann, State of Florida/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Gov. Rick Scott answers reporters' questions, and there are a lot of them, amid allegations of improper oversight of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Photo credit: Sara K. Brockmann, State of Florida/Wikimedia Commons.
January 26, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Just months after being elected to a second term, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is embroiled in a controversy surrounding his handling of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

A nonpartisan, government watchdog group, Integrity Florida, is asking for an investigation, claiming Scott improperly used the FDLE to do some political dirty work.

Integrity Florida's executive director, Dan Krassner, explains why the governor and his advisers are being accused of federal civil rights violations.

"Former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey alleged that Gov. Rick Scott and his top advisers conspired to falsely name Colleen Reilly, who was then acting Clerk of Courts in Orange County, the target of a criminal inquiry," Krassner explains.

Reilly had been in the spotlight after two prison inmates escaped in 2013 with forged papers allegedly from her office.

Scott responded "absolutely not" when asked if his office had conspired to make Reilly look bad, and has denied any wrongdoing.

Allegations of improper oversight of the state policing agency surfaced after Bailey, FDLE's longtime commissioner, was ousted last month.

Bailey has publicly called Scott a liar and says his December resignation wasn't voluntary, but political retribution for refusing to help fund-raise for the governor's reelection campaign last year.

The Florida Constitution requires an FDLE commissioner's removal be approved by the entire state cabinet, but Krassner says Scott acted on his own.

"A political agenda should never interfere with the authority and responsibility of FDLE to protect and serve the public trust,” Krassner stresses. “And Floridians deserve answers about whether Gov. Scott and his top aides attempted to abuse the authority of FDLE."

The State Attorney's office says it sees no need for a state level investigation, but Krassner says that doesn't rule out a federal probe.

Phil Latzman, Public News Service - FL