Calls Escalate For Outside Investigation Into FDLE Chief's Departure

Jan 26, 2015

Happier times: Gov. Rick Scott seems relaxed on a visit to FDLE as Commissioner Gerald Bailey laughs in the background.
Credit Rick Scott/flickr

Watchdog groups want an outside investigation into the apparent ousting of well respected Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, and now a private citizen is asking the FBI to investigate claims that Gov. Rick Scott tried to meddle in the affairs of the state’s top law enforcement agency.

Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times, broke the story of Bailey’s forced resignation. He says the governor’s office acknowledges mistakes were made during Scott’s re-election bid.

“They blame a low-level campaign worker for sending an email asking Bailey to go on a conference call with the political team getting Rick Scott re-elected and discuss their law enforcement platform. Bailey was appalled by this request,” Bousquet says. Bailey felt “it showed a scary willingness by the governor’s campaign to try to politicize a law enforcement agency.”

Scott initially said Bailey resigned. But weeks later, Bailey told the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau that he was forced out when Scott’s top attorney went to FDLE and told him to retire or resign. That’s not supposed to happen without the approval of the Florida Cabinet, made up of Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Ironically, this could have been avoided since Bailey was expected to retire in the spring.

Bousquet told WLRN:

“It’s pretty clear that this whole situation has created tremendous tension between the governor’s office and three Cabinet members, all of whom are Republicans. 

It has to be emphasized that the commissioner of FDLE doesn’t work just for the governor. He has four bosses. He has three Cabinet members who are all his bosses.

The reason that the FDLE was set up that way is to prevent the very kind of thing that happened here – where the commissioner claims he’s been thrown out of office because of political differences with one politician.

[FDLE] are the police who investigate police. FDLE is now investigating serious wrongdoing in the Florida prison system with suspicious deaths of inmates. FDLE investigates elected officials who are accused of criminal wrongdoing. So FDLE must be completely above reproach.”