Florida House Democrats are asking Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater to look into the removing of unsupportive Villagers from Gov. Rick Scott's budget signing even on May 26.
Democrats say the protesters were "unlawfully" removed and want Bondi to back them up. They're asking Atwater to determine whether public money was inappropriately used for the event.
On Friday, Scott's press office sent a release acknowledging the protesters should not have been removed. Scott did not apologize and said he knew nothing about it, but said he was responsible for the flub and promised it wouldn't happen again.
Here's the letter from Democrats:
Honorable Pam Bondi Attorney General, State of Florida
The Honorable Jeff Atwater Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida
Re: Governor Scott’s May 26 Florida Budget Signing Event
Dear General Bondi and CFO Atwater:
By now, you are aware of a controversy concerning Governor Rick Scott and his admission that his office inappropriately removed Florida residents from a public budget signing event held in the Central Florida retirement community of The Villages on Thursday, May 26, 2011.
In a June 3 Governor’s Office statement responding to concerns raised by citizens and members of the media, a spokesperson for the governor acknowledged that a mistake had occurred. However, the brief statement neither provides explanation for the actions nor an apology to the affected persons.
In our view, the unlawful removal of a citizen at a public event is a very serious infringement of the rights of taxpaying Floridians, especially given the appearance that the citizens were removed solely, or primarily, because of their political views. These actions by, or under the authority of the Governor’s Office, are profoundly disappointing and shocking as they trample upon essential freedoms that all Americans cherish.
Given the seriousness of the matter and the considerable public importance, we urge you and your offices to provide us with urgent insight into the following questions:
• Were civil liberties that are guaranteed under the Florida and U.S. constitutions, and under state or federal law, infringed upon by the Governor’s Office in its apparent decision to use resources of a local sheriff to remove citizens, at risk of arrest, from the budget-signing event?
• What remedies are available to the affected Floridians, and what penalties are appropriate for such alleged misconduct?
• Were state offices or public funds used inappropriately at this signing event; and if so, what are the appropriate means for reimbursing taxpayers?
• What recommendations can you provide to ensure all Floridians that such a “mistake” will not happen again?
Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter involving important constitutional and financial concerns to Floridians. We look forward to your reply.
cc: The Honorable Governor Rick Scott