January 26, 2015

Gov. Scott eyed Louisiana official as possible McCarty replacement

An online news service that covers the insurance industry reports that Gov. Rick Scott's office contacted a Louisiana insurance regulator as a potential replacement for Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty two weeks before Scott first publicly suggested McCarty's removal from office.

UPDATE: Scott's office confirms it asked Henderson for his resume and did not float the idea on a staff level with the three Cabinet members who also oversee the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). Scott's office issued this statement: "As we made the transition to a second term in office, Ron Henderson was brought up as a possible candidate for Commissioner of OIR. We reached out and asked for his resume.  We did not discuss Mr. Henderson with other Cabinet staff. As the governor said last week, the next Cabinet meeting would be a good time to discuss a process to begin a full search for new candidates to lead OIR, OFR and DOR. The governor believes government needs to be more like business and frequently change leadership to bring in new ideas and fresh energy.”  

Continue reading "Gov. Scott eyed Louisiana official as possible McCarty replacement " »

January 25, 2015

Priebus and Wasserman Schultz mislead on immigration, but Dems have political edge

One of the most bipartisan aspects of immigration reform is the inability of the Republican and Democratic leaders to talk honestly about it.

Simply look at how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, handled the issue last week.

Rather than provide hard facts, they reverted to the political parties’ default position: Recrimination for political point-scoring. The problem for Republicans, though, is the issue benefits Democrats more in presidential election years.

More here

January 24, 2015

WASH POST: GOP presidential candidates face delicate balancing act

Washington Post's Dan Balz and Robert Costa, writing from Iowa on Saturday:

 The most wide-open Republican presidential nomination campaign in memory had its unofficial opening here on Saturday at a gathering that highlighted anew the thorny path ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party's conservative base without compromising their hopes of winning a general election.

(MIssing from event: Bush, Romney, Rubio, Paul and Jindal.)


January 23, 2015

Vanity Fair's David Margolick's revisits Jeb Bush's Andover days

Vanity Fair's David Margolick writes in Vanity Fair ...

Andover back then was a thoroughly cliquish place, divided neatly into “jocks,” “nerds,” “freaks,” and “zeroes.” [Jeb] Bush was hard to pigeonhole—he was captain of the tennis team and was friendly with several black students—but was also, improbably (as one classmate called him) “a budding hippie.”



The InnoVida scandal, with Jeb Bush now the lead character


As the InnoVida scandal unfolded in the Miami media, Jeb Bush was part of the supporting cast.

The former governor was just one of several well-known figures the smooth-talking CEO, Claudio Osorio, recruited to bring respectability to a company that would ultimately be the vehicle for a $50 million swindle. Miami Heat great Alonzo Mourning, retired general Wesley Clark and condo king Jorge Perez were also reliable mentions in InnoVida coverage for their ties to the failed company. 

But with Bush readying a presidential run, he finds himself fully in the InnoVida spotlight. The Washington Post put the saga on the front page this week, with some new details that highlight the kind of money that Bush's consulting deal with InnoVida could have generated if the company had been legit. 

In our story, we revisit the business scandal that unfolded like a classic Miami fraud -- one with the requisite fancy cars, lavish mansion and wealty, prominent friends.

At the time, it didn't also involve a presidential candidate. But stay tuned. 

Read the story here

Scott avoids reporters amid calls for investigations into FDLE

As Gov. Rick Scott on Friday continued to brush off questions about allegations of political meddling made by the state's former top law enforcement officer, pressure mounted elsewhere in Florida to get answers.

A Land O'Lakes man filed a formal complaint with the FBI asking for an investigation into a series of claims made last week by Gerald Bailey, whom Scott ousted as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"There's a clear indication of tampering with criminal investigations and FDLE that an impartial investigator needs to take a look at," said Jim Frissell, a 58-year-old engineer.

Frissell sent his complaint to Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who, along with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, said on Thursday that a third party should investigate Bailey's allegations, which included charges that Scott's office or campaign pressured him to fudge details in a criminal investigation, shuttle campaign workers in state vehicles, expedite a criminal investigation of a possible Scott appointee and craft Scott's campaign platform on law enforcement.

Scott's office has broadly deemed Bailey's allegations to be "false" or "petty" but has refused to provide details.

Frissell disagrees with Putnam's suggestion that the FDLE's inspector general could handle the case and hopes to persuade him to push for a federal investigation.

Read story here

Senator conducts surprise inspections at two prisons with troubled history

Suwanee CorrectionalThe chairman of a key legislative committee and an entourage of Senate staff dropped in for an evening of surprise inspections at two of North Florida’s troubled prisons late Thursday.

The initial findings after touring Suwannee Correctional and Jefferson Correctional: dormitories that had been abandoned because of leaking roofs, facilities dependent on community donations for supplies, and dangerously low staffing levels at two prisons with a history of inmate abuse.

 “I’m sorry to be the only fool who has taken it on himself to check it out but I don’t like dog and pony shows,’’ said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview, in an interview with the Herald/Times. 

He said he decided he needed to conduct the surprise inspections to “get to the bottom of what needs to be done at the Department of Corrections” after a series of reports in the Miami Herald have called attention to a record number of inmate deaths and allegations of cover-up by officials involved.

He said he relied on a state statute that allows authorized visits by legislators, governors, judges, Cabinet officials and states attorneys and brought along his staff to chronicle the experience.

The reaction from the close-knit prison establishment: complete surprise.

“A Senator or Representative, touring a State Correctional facility, afterhours, is unheard of,’’ wrote Samuel Culpepper, director of prisons for Region 1 in North Florida, in an email message to wardens on Friday morning. “We’re in a new day and a new time.”

Continue reading "Senator conducts surprise inspections at two prisons with troubled history" »

Olenick to join state Board of Education

Michael-OlenickGov. Rick Scott has appointed Michael Olenick to the state Board of Education.

Olenick, 62, is a former general counsel for the state Department of Education. He currently chairs the Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees.

"I know Michael shares our goal of making sure all of our students succeed in the classroom, and I am pleased to appoint him to the State Board of Education today," Scott said in a statement.

Olenick is vice president of corporate affairs and chief compliance officer of The Morganti Group, an international construction company. A graduate of Nova Southeastern School of Law, he previously served as assistant state attorney for Broward and St. Lucie counties, as well as Martin County attorney.

He will replace Ada Armas, a Miami-Dade physician who resigned from the education board to spend more time with her family. 

His term ends December 31, 2016.

The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

This time in Winter Park, Scott sidesteps more questions on FDLE


During a Friday afternoon news conference in Winter Park, reporters continued to push Gov. Rick Scott to answer questions that he’s been dodging for a week about why he ousted Gerald Bailey from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the allegations that Bailey has made since then.

And for the second time Friday, Scott avoided answering most of the questions.

“This is by far the most hostile I’ve seen any interaction between Scott and the media,” said Jason Garcia, a Florida Trend editor who attended the Winter Park news conference.

Here’s Garcia’s transcript of the Q & A:

Question: Are you willing to either call for or accept an outside investigation into the ouster of FDLE Commissioner Bailey?

Scott: “Here are the facts: Gerry Bailey was eligible for retirement. My belief is, in all your agencies in government, you ought to be looking for new talent all the time, looking for new ideas. He agreed to step down. Then a new commissioner was approved by all the Cabinet. Then after that, he decided to make attacks. It’s unfair to the individuals that work at FDLE. They do a great job. It’s also unfair to the new commissioner, Rick Swearingen, who also does a great job.”

Question: Will you just tell us, yes or no, did you tell FDLE to target Colleen Reilly or say that it was targeting Colleen Reilly? Just answer yes or no. Why dance around the question?

Scott: Sure. My press office put out a frequently asked questions yesterday. So you can call them.

Question: Will you accept an outside investigation?

Scott: If there’s an investigation, I’ll work with them.

(There was a second media availability as Scott was leaving.)

Question: (Inaudible, but it was about Reilly.)

Scott: The questions have all been answered in the frequently asked questions. So you should call the press office.

Question: Why don’t you answer it now?

Scott: Go to what the press office put out.

Question: It’s not answered in the release --

Scott: Is that all you have? See you guys. (Scott pushes through TV cameras and into a waiting car.)

The "frequently asked questions" that Scott was referring to was released by his office on Thursday. As one of the reporters implied, it did not answer many questions about Bailey's ouster.

So the public still awaits a full account... 


Police body camera bill loses its teeth

A South Florida lawmaker proposed legislation last month that would require every police officer in the state to wear a body camera while on duty. 

The cameras became central to the debate about law enforcement accountability following the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City.  

But they have been questioned by many policymakers and leaders in law enforcement because of concerns about costs, privacy and how they would be used in internal police investigations. 

In the first House committee workshop on the bill (H.B. 57) Tuesday, those same concerns were brought up -- and are leading sponsor Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, to dramatically change his proposal. 

There'll be no more requirement that every officer wear a camera, he said. 

"We all should have some type of accountability," Jones said. "I thought it was a great accountability tool on both sides, the citizens and the police officers." 

Instead of putting a camera on every officer in the state, the new bill will set guidelines for policies to be put in place by police departments that choose to implement cameras, such as the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which will start training its officers next month and plans to have more than 300 deployed by the end of February. 

The issues that will likely remain hot topics as this moves through the legislature -- costs and privacy chief among them -- are questions the Pasco sheriff has already grappled with, said Maj. Mel Eakley, who has been intimately involved with the process. 

The biggest cost is data storage, which is problematic largely because no one's certain just how much memory would be needed, is being handled by obtaining unlimited server space. 

And privacy? Eakley said all interactions with the general public will be recorded unless it's in private property, the owner asks for cameras to be shut off and there isn't a clear crime being committed. The cameras are collecting evidence, he said. 

The Pasco policies are fluid, Eakley said, and he recommends that as the Legislature starts finalizing its rules for departments, it ought to look at what his department is doing. 

"We think that the things that we're trying to accomplish are probably a good start for the legislation," he said. "This is an evolving technology, and we think that our policy as it's written is a good start."