Florida Gov. Rick Scott, responding to an ongoing furor that is overshadowing his second term in office, provided a detailed response Thursday to allegations that he and his staff made improper and politically-motivated requests to the state's former top law-enforcement official.
The decision by Scott's press office to release a two-page list of questions and answers came hours after two other statewide elected Republicans said that someone should look into the allegations made by former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Bailey was forced to resign from his job last December by Scott who then asked the three members of the Cabinet to name his hand-picked replacement to the job.
But Bailey has made a set of allegations to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald in the last week including that he was asked by the Scott administration officials to falsely name the Orange County clerks of courts as a target in a criminal investigation into how two convicts obtained false documents in order to escape prison. Some of the other allegations included that the FDLE was asked to transport campaign staff during Scott's re-election campaign.
Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, called Bailey's allegations "ridiculous attacks." The detailed response prepared by Scott's press office goes over Bailey's allegations one by one and denies most of them.
The response by the Scott administration does however acknowledge that an unidentified campaign staff member asked Bailey to help Scott's re-election campaign "develop campaign policy." The document states that "FDLE did the right thing by ignoring a campaign staffer's inappropriate request for assistance."
The uproar over Bailey's ouster has prompted calls for outside investigations and other state elected officials to question what happened. Democratic legislators this week said the state's ethics panel should consider probing the incident, while outside watchdog group Integrity Florida said it has a sent a letter to a federal prosecutor and the FBI requesting them to look into Bailey's allegations.
The head of FDLE reports to both the governor and members of the Cabinet.
Cabinet members, who approved a new FDLE commissioner last week, contend they did not know that Bailey was forced to resign.
Over the past few days Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have raised questions about how Bailey's departure was handled. But the response prepared by Scott's office maintains their staff was told ahead of time that Scott wanted to remove Bailey and that "Cabinet staff raised no objection."
Both Atwater and Putnam — who supported Scott's re-election — said that someone needs to look into Bailey's allegations.
"There should be some follow up to those allegations, whether they were incidents of illegal activity versus sloppy campaign official type of interactions that occurred," Putnam said.
Neither elected official said who should be looking into the allegations, although both Putnam and Atwater acknowledged that one possible suggestion is to ask the state's chief inspector general, or the FDLE's inspector.
State Attorney Willie Meggs, the main prosecutor in Leon County, said on Thursday that he sees no reason to investigate any of the allegations, characterizing many of them as disagreements between Bailey and Scott.
"If the governor and the commissioner of his department of law enforcement were in a disagreement, would you be surprised about that?" Meggs said. "I'm certainly not surprised by that."
Meggs added that if Bailey was asked to do something "criminal on the prison escapes" then "he should have dealt with it two years ago" and reported it to authorities.