Rick Scott knows a thing or two about emergency damage control. This is the same executive, after all, who survived his company getting hit with the biggest Medicare fraud fine in history, escaping with a golden parachute and a path into politics.
Last night, Scott showed his finest scandal-ducking form again as pressure boiled over about his ouster of ex-FDLE chief Gerald Bailey. With two of his own cabinet members now calling for an independent investigation into Bailey's claims that Scott tried to pressure him into politically motivated moves, the governor snuck out a back door rather than face reporters -- then sent out a carefully worded, two-page response to the media.
At the center of the firestorm is Bailey, a veteran cop who spent two decades running the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state's independent police agency. Last week, the well-respected lawman lobbed a Molotov cocktail at Scott, who had told the media that Bailey quietly resigned in December.
Not so, Bailey claimed. Not only was he forced out by Scott, but also the ouster happened because he resisted the governor's political pressure on a host of improper requests, from suggesting criminal charges might be looming against a county clerk to pushing the feds to drop an investigation into a business magnate he hoped to appoint to state office.
Scott denied the claims through his press office but hadn't talked at length to reporters about Bailey's allegations. He was supposed to do so last night after a meeting of Enterprise Florida.
That all changed, though, when two of his top GOP colleagues -- cabinet members CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- told reporters at the meeting that they want an independent probe of Bailey's claims.
"There should be some followup to those allegations and whether they were incidents of illegal activity versus sloppy campaign-official type of interactions that occurred," Putnam told reporters.
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As they talked to the media, Scott ducked out a back door. Instead, hours later, he sent out an "FAQ," which denied each of Bailey's points and -- rightly -- points out that Atwater and Putnam, along with Attorney General Pam Bondi, signed off on Bailey's resignation.