So Gov. Rick Scott, or rather his office, has responded to inquiries about his Dec. 16 ouster of Gerald Bailey from his job as Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the allegations that were subsequently made by Bailey.
But hold on. Upon further review, the two-page “FDLE FAQs” that Scott released on Thursday, falls far short of filling in the blanks.
The release, which is organized in a Q & A format, lists 10 questions followed by bullet points.
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Q: Is it true that Gerald Bailey was forced to resign?
-- Prior to December 16, 2015 (sic), the Governor’s staff notified cabinet staff (including the offices of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Commissioner of Agriculture) that the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE. Cabinet staff raised no objection.
-- On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, cabinet staff were notified that Gerald Bailey would be met with that day about the Governor’s desire for new leadership at FDLE. Peter Antonacci, then general counsel, met with Bailey and said the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE and requested his resignation.
-- Bailey sent a letter to the Governor saying he was “stepping down” that same day, December 16th.
(Ok, where shall we begin? Let’s start with the obvious: None of the three bullet points directly answer the above question. The first bullet point implies in broad language [“the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE”] that yes, Bailey was forced out. The second bullet point actually acknowledges that Scott’s general counsel, Antonacci, told Bailey that “the Governor wanted new leadership.” That’s at least more than what Scott initially told reporters on Jan. 13 when first asked if he forced Bailey out. A day later, asked again if he forced Bailey to resign, Scott replied: "In business, you often make changes because it's the right thing for that organization," he said in Tampa on Jan. 14. Nevermind that he’s the head of a government, not a business, but that doesn’t directly answer the question either. Was he forced out? Yes, but Scott still can’t say it. Also notable here, Scott isn’t disclosing names. Why? The “governor’s staff notified Cabinet staff...Cabinet staff raised no objection.” Who is “Cabinet staff”? "Governor’s staff?" Can we get a couple of names? Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has provided names. He has told the Times/Herald that Scott’s Cabinet affairs aide, Monica Russell, relayed to Putnam’s Cabinet aide, Brooke McKnight, that Scott wanted to make staff changes in his second term, including at FDLE. But Putnam said he wasn’t given any more details, making it hard to figure just exactly what Scott was doing. "We were given a heads-up on a staff level that there was an interest in making changes going into the second term, including at FDLE. Period," Putnam told the Times/Herald last week. "That's all that was conveyed to me.” So the governor’s office doesn’t advance anything here. It mainly repeats established facts that no one is disputing [Antonacci met with Bailey, Bailey sent a letter to the Governor saying he was stepping down.] The public still has no clue from Scott if he forced Bailey out and, more importantly, why, beyond a vague “Governor wanted new leadership.” Well, duh.)
Q: Is it true that you or your aides instructed FDLE to identify Alan Williams in a daily media report about the Dream Defender protest at the capitol?
-- The Governor’s office, FDLE and DMS worked to produce daily media reports in response to a high volume of media requests for information (including the costs of the protest, activities of protestors and incidents in the capitol during the protest).
-- Representative Williams was first identified by name in an incident report memo from Gerald Bailey emailed to the Governor’s office on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm and then included in a memo to press at 4:57PM that same day.
-- During the protest, it was standard practice to provide as much information to the media as possible without compromising the security concerns of the Capitol building.
(This response doesn’t contradict what Bailey has told the Times/Herald, and it doesn't answer the question, again. The second bullet says that Williams, a Democrat, was first identified by Bailey. That corroborates what Bailey said he was asked to do: “Scott's office wanted those reports to include specific references to state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, who was assisting the protesters.” Only after he saw his name in media reports did Williams complain to Bailey, who may not have thought anything of the insistence that Williams be mentioned. Not only does Williams say that the incident reports are wrong, but he also contends he shouldn’t have been singled out. He said it was the intent of former chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth to link Democrats to the Dream Defenders protest by mentioning him in the incident reports. "Adam was trying to show this wasn't a movement of students, but that it was orchestrated by Democrats," Williams told the Times/Herald when asked about the report last week. The third bullet states that it was “standard practice” to provide as much information to the media as possible without compromising the safety of the Capitol. What does this have to do with mentioning Williams, the only person mentioned by name in the FDLE incident report from that period? What none of these bullets answer is the allegation from Bailey that Scott’s office wanted the FDLE reports to mention Williams. Is that true? If so, why? Can we get another FAQ on that?)
Q: Did Governor’s staff direct Bailey to target Interim Orange County Clerk Colleen Reilly as part of the investigation of two escaped inmates?
-- No, Frank Collins met with FDLE communications personnel to help coordinate an FDLE press conference. Bailey asked to speak with Collins and FDLE communications staff before the press conference.
-- The discussions with Bailey were about how to provide the most complete account of who could have been involved in the high-profile escape of two inmates, which included both the Clerk’s Office and the Department of Corrections.
-- The discussion was not about targeting any individual.
(Bailey’s allegation that he was asked to falsely name the Orange County Clerk of Courts as a target of a criminal investigation is perhaps the most serious allegation. "The most shocking thing was being ordered to target another individual without any justification," Bailey said. "I don't know why this woman was in the cross hairs." But did Bailey mean that Reilly as an individual was being targeted, or that her office, and the 60 employees who work in the criminal division that she oversees, was being targeted? It’s not clear. It’s much more plausible to think Bailey meant that Scott was trying to besmirch the Orange County Clerk of Courts office in the prison break debacle, shifting blame from the Department of Corrections, which he controls. That would impugn Reilly, but doesn’t mean she was herself on the verge of being accused for helping the prisoners escape. In that context, that third bullet looks kinda slick. “The discussion was not about targeting any individual.” Well, was there discussion about naming the Clerk of Courts office as a general target? We don’t know.)
Q: Did you ask FDLE to get involved in a federal money laundering case so a donor could be appointed to a position?
-- No, the Governor did not ask Bailey to get involved in any type of investigation in any way.
-- While there is no record of an appointment application in the Governor’s office, it is likely he was considered for an appointment at some point because there was a request for a background check. However, there was no request to FDLE to influence any kind of investigation.
(The “no” here does contradict what Bailey told the Times/Herald, but barely. Bailey said Scott personally asked him if he could "bring in for a landing" an out-of-state investigation of a Miami businessman Scott wanted to appoint to a powerful state board. But Bailey “emphasized that Scott did not ask him to try to impede or halt the investigation.” The second bullet point is a study in avoidance. Bailey wouldn’t name the businessman, but the Times/Herald learned in its reporting that he was Bernard Klepach, 53, the owner of duty-free shops and the mayor of Indian Creek Village, an affluent enclave in Miami-Dade County. Yes, indeed, there is no record of an appointment application. But there was that “request for a background check.” Actually, the record shows the governor’s appointment office requested two, count ‘em two, background checks on Klepach. Why were there two background checks? Perhaps another FAQ will address this question. But, again, Bailey’s allegation is refuted here. It's just that the second bullet point actually supports Bailey’s contention that there was a preoccupation in the governor’s office with Klepach’s criminal background check.)
Q: Is it true that FDLE was forced to transport staffers from your re-election campaign in state vehicles?
-- The campaign paid an invoice from FDLE for the estimated cost of staff to travel with the Governor and the First Lady.
-- FDLE would not transport Meghan Collins on one occasion, which created some confusion because the campaign was already working to reimburse any cost to the state for staff travel.
(So these bullet points seem to say, yes, but the campaign tried to pay back the FDLE. This comes from the Jan. 13 Times/Herald story where Bailey said FDLE agents in Southwest Florida rejected requests by Scott's campaign that they transport Collins, a campaign staffer assigned to first lady Ann Scott. Bailey says the agency is responsible for transporting the governor and first lady, not campaign workers. It doesn’t matter if the campaign tried to pay, Bailey said he refused taking $90,000 the campaign tried to pay the FDLE because it has no legal authority to accept it and that it would be inappropriate to accept money from a political party. But here, it seems, Scott’s office is saying the campaign tried to pay for transporting campaign workers. Again, this doesn’t refute what Bailey is alleging. His point was he refused to do so. Scott’s office provided more detail last week when it disclosed that Scott's office said a new check for $90,151.50 was written to the state general revenue fund in April. "We properly reimbursed the state," a spokeswoman said. "Everything was paid for properly." So under that arrangement, Scott’s campaign paid the money into general revenue and not to FDLE. That fine point gets muddled here.)
Q: Is it true your campaign solicited donations from FDLE on their state emails?
-- Any emails used for campaign donations would have been obtained through lists operated by organizations that included individuals who opted in for communication. Unfortunately, those lists were not regularly cleaned to ensure they did not have any government email addresses on them.
-- The law requires mass emails to include an unsubscribe link that would have allowed any recipient to automatically be removed from a list at any time.
(Here the governor’s office essentially says, yes, the campaign did solicit donations from FDLE, but it was by mistake. Again, this backs up what Bailey told the Times/Herald.)
Q: Is it true that Pete Antonacci requested FDLE to delete public records?
(By far the most impressive answer on this list. Short. To the point. No kidding around. It completely contradicts what Bailey said on Jan. 13 -- that when he complained to Antonacci, Scott’s general counsel, that he was getting solicitations to donate money to Scott’s reelection on his state computer, Antonacci told him: “Just delete it.” Classic he said/he said here. Unless Bailey has this one recorded, Antonacci can emphatically deny this one.)
Q: Is it true that campaign aides asked for FDLE to help develop campaign policy by getting on a phone call?
-- FDLE did the right thing by ignoring a campaign staffer’s inappropriate request for assistance.
(In other words, oops. Bailey said that he was asked to take part in a June conference call to discuss "the governor's platform for the next four years." That’s a mixture of politics and law enforcement that doesn’t hold up too well in retrospect.)
Q: What about the allegation from Bailey that your administration forces agencies to make certain hiring decisions?
-- Our office frequently makes suggestions on qualified candidates, but we do not require agencies to hire anyone.
(Bailey said Scott’s office tried to place unqualified people in FDLE jobs, citing David Folsom, who resigned as a deputy inspector general at the Department of Corrections and later sought an unspecified $70,000 job at FDLE, with the support of Scott's office. But he didn't say Scott's office ultimately forced him to do so. This is not one of Bailey’s more serious allegations. A qualified employee is in the eye of the beholder. Here the governor's office is saying, sure, we recommend employees. Often, an employee might view a hiring recommendation as more than a recommendation. Please note: Folsom came forward to suggest that Bailey was confused on this one. Bailey hasn’t denied it.)
Q: What about the allegation from Bailey that the Governor’s office stopped FDLE from briefing the cabinet on their plan to increase pay for crime lab employees?
-- In October, the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget advised FDLE to 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. The Governor’s full budget proposal will be released next week.
(Not sure if any of this has been reported. Is the governor's office breaking news here? But it does seem to be agreeing with this alleged allegation.)
So out of 10 questions, the governor's office refuted Bailey four times, agreed with him four times, and avoided answering twice. That's not exactly slamming the door on this one.