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AG Pam Bondi: FDLE scandal raises "serious questions," Cabinet should discuss "in sunshine"


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said there are "serious questions" over how the state's law-enforcement chief was ousted from his job by employees of Gov. Rick Scott.

Bondi indicated she didn't know all the facts of what happened to former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who has alleged that Scott's employees meddled in law-enforcement business and used strong-arm tactics to pressure him to resign last month.

Bondi said she and the public have a right to know the truth, and that the matter should be discussed “in the sunshine” at the next Florida Cabinet meeting, Feb. 5.

"As Attorney General, and as a former prosecutor, I take the rule of law very seriously, especially in matters affecting the safety and security of the people of Florida. I believe the Governor, and every member of this Cabinet, share that view," Bondi said in a statement.

"But the recent process behind the appointment of a new FDLE Commissioner has raised serious questions, and those questions should be answered to ensure transparency, and the public’s right to know," Bondi wrote.

Coming from a fellow Republican who always publicly backs Scott, Bondi's statement was a rare show of political separation from the governor. Scott’s isolation has been building for a week with Bondi and the other Republicans who sit on the Florida Cabinet, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state CFO Jeff Atwater.

Atwater yesterday raised concerns about the process of picking Bailey's successor, Rick Swearingen. But Atwater wanted to discuss whether to make a new FDLE appointment.

Bondi, who likes and voted for Swearingen, doesn’t want him replaced. She wants the underlying story of Bailey's ouster discussed.

The three Cabinet members last week were caught flat-footed when Bailey told the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times state capital bureau that Scott's former general counsel, former lobbyist Pete Antonacci, pressured him to resign by saying he had lost the confidence of the Cabinet. But the Cabinet members say that wasn't true.

Putnam was the first to publicly criticize what happened.

The allegations of political skullduggery surfaced as the Cabinet last week voted to appoint Swearingen. After that vote, Scott suggested that Bailey had willingly resigned.

Bailey called that a lie.

Among other allegations, Bailey then told the Herald/Times that Scott's former chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, had tried to get the FDLE to falsely name an Orange County clerk of court for a paperwork mix-up that led to an inmate escape -- an embarrassment to Scott's Department of Corrections in an election year.

Bondi said she didn’t know how to handle the controversy and finally decided that the best way to do it was to publicly discuss the issue in the open.

"Since the last Cabinet meeting on January 13th, my office has been vigorously discussing how to do just that,” Bondi wrote. "At the next Cabinet meeting, on February 5th, we will discuss these issues, thoroughly, and in the sunshine."