At the height of the outcry over the forced ouster of an FDLE commissioner by Gov. Rick Scott's office, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was poised to go public with a strongly-worded denunciation of the Gerald Bailey fiasco, including a reference to "key actions" made in secret that deny Floridians the constitutional right of access.
The words, under Putnam's byline, are in the form of a draft opinion piece for newspaper editorial pages that was never submitted.
Putnam's deputy chief of staff, Amanda Bevis, drafted the op-ed on Jan. 21. She said it was not sent because Putnam was giving interviews to Capitol reporters and making similar points that third week in January. "Because of the volume of media coverage around the issue, we decided not to do an op-ed," Bevis said.
The tone of the unpublished piece makes points similar to the court pleadings by Florida media outlets that accuse Scott and Cabinet members of violating the Sunshine Law by quietly sacking Bailey with no public discussion or vote.
"The members of the Cabinet are required to meet on a regular basis to consider items that are required by statute to come before the Cabinet," Putnam's piece reads. "The recent, sudden transition in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, however, represents a breakdown in the Cabinet process. When key decisions are made without the concurrence of all Cabinet members and outside of Cabinet meetings, we are robbing our constituents of their right to witness these deliberations. Moreover, such activities are not reflective of the governing body that was established in Florida's Constitution and do not represent the open process and shared responsibilities that were intended to be carried out by this governing body."
Putnam's piece goes on to list his proposals for Cabinet reform, which he had announced earlier that day, including mandatory confirmation votes of Cabinet agency heads, quarterly performance reports, an application process and formal interviews by a selection committee "following appropriate public meeting notices and sunshine requirements."
Putnam used the term "breakdown" at a Feb. 5 Cabinet meeting in Tampa, when he renewed his call for changes to bring more openness to the hiring and firing of Cabinet agency heads.