In ways large and small, Gov. Rick Scott's office made life miserable for Gerald Bailey.
Bailey's firing as commissioner of FDLE has become a media firestorm and the worst controversy of Scott's tenure as governor. Here's another incident, one that has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam shaking his head in dismay, and it involves paying about 300 FDLE employees more money.
Bailey's last appearance as FDLE commissioner was at the Dec. 9 Cabinet meeting, where he gave a presentation on crime statistics and mentioned the Thanksgiving weekend surge in applications for concealed weapons permits. But there was another issue that two Cabinet members wanted to discuss: the unusually high turnover rate among FDLE crime lab analysts, and how Bailey planned to fix it.
"We're having tremendous turnover problems," Bailey testified. "We're considered a training ground for the other county labs that recruit our people."
FDLE had a proposed solution: Ask Scott and the Legislature for $1.8 million to give the crime lab analysts a 10 percent pay increase. But Bailey told the Times/Herald he was ordered by one of Scott's budget aides to keep quiet about the pay plan at the Cabinet meeting. He said the word came from an employee in the Office of Policy and Budget, Bonnie Rogers, who deals with law enforcement agencies' budgets.
Bailey said he was not told why and he did as told, even when Putnam tried to break the code during the meeting: "Have we seen y'all's legislative and budget priorities yet?" Putnam asked Bailey. (CFO Jeff Atwater first raised the subject at the meeting).
"We were asked to present that at the next Cabinet meeting," Bailey replied. There would be no next Cabinet meeting for Bailey, who was ousted one week later.
The governor's office, in its recent FAQ document of frequently asked questions, said: "In October, the Office of Policy and Budget recommended that FDLE not include any pay increases in their legislative budget requests because pay increases for all state agencies were to be considered as a whole at a later date." Scott's budget, released this week, made no mention of the salary bump for FDLE analysts and has no across-the-board pay increase for state workers.
In an interview, Putnam expressed his frustration and said he wants future budget requests from Cabinet agencies to be given to the Cabinet at the same time they are given to the governor and Legislature. The proposal is one of several to be considered at next Thursday's Cabinet meeting. "That is not a good way to manage Cabinet agencies," Putnam said.