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On-duty cops at Scott campaign event draws election law complaint

A leader of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, an officers' union that backs Charlie Crist for governor, has filed an election-law complaint against Gov. Rick Scott, accusing his campaign of violating the law by having on-duty police officers at a campaign event.

The complaint was filed by Jeff Marano of Fort Lauderdale, a 30-year PBA member who cited a state law that makes it a misdemeanor for public employees to engage in political activity during working hours, except for elected officials such as sheriffs.

"Rick Scott's political campaign facilitiated the violation of (law) by soliciting the assistance of on-duty law enforcement officers -- under the false pretense of security -- only to repeatedly feature them as props in the background of campaign events," Marano's complaint alleges.

Scott held a campaign event Monday morning at Patrick's Uniforms in Tampa, a business specializing in police uniforms and accessories. Top brass from several law enforcement agencies were there, including the police chief of Holmes Beach, William Tokajer; several uniformed Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies, and an enforcement officer from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.

In his complaint, Marano cites reports by three media organizations: WTVT, WFLA and The Tampa Tribune. Marano cites a WFLA report that some police officers left when they discovered it was a campaign event, and that WTVT quoted Chief Tokajer as saying the Scott campaign did not specifically tell him that the event was political in nature.

Scott's campaign issued a response that did not specifically address the allegations in the complaint.

"Gov. Scott is proud to have the support of Florida’s law enforcement community, including the Florida Police Chiefs Association and 40 Florida sheriffs. This is just another sad distraction from Charlie Crist’s numerous ethical problems, including his broken promise to be transparent by releasing tax returns for both himself and his spouse,” spokesman Greg Blair said.