The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov's office says (incorrectly) that they didn't kick anyone out of budget signing

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott today told Politic365 today that the governor's office did not order anyone removed from Thursday's budget signing at The Villages, and that the event was meant to be public. Only, that's not true.

First, here's what Scott spokesman Lane Wright said, according to the political website. "Governor Scott did not have these individuals removed. This was a public event. It was brought to our attention that the local authorities had removed some. We don't know first-hand who was removed or why.

"We are only seeing what you're seeing in the news reports," Wright added. "It's disappointing to know that anyone who made the effort to be at such an important event wasn't allowed in."

Here's what actually happened -- the Buzz saw all of it firsthand. Sumter County sheriff's deputies were summoned by Scott staffers wearing suits and black earpieces. They told the deputies that the budget signing was a private event and that a group of Democrats standing or sitting in the last two rows had to leave.

Deputies went to tell the group -- more than a dozen people -- to leave. The deputies said the town square had been leased and that the organizers wanted the group of Democrats to leave. The group of Democrats said it was unfair.

"You all are preaching to the choir," a deputy told them. "I'm doing what I'm told."

The deputies were getting their orders from Russ Abrams, a $60,000 a year special assistant to Scott. Seeing this, the Buzz approached Abrams. He told us the budget signing was "a private event." When asked more questions, Abrams said: "I don't need to talk to the press," and then, "I don't have anything to say."

Abrams and other men wearing black earpieces then attempted to identify other people with anti-Scott intentions. They alerted deputies, who told them they had to leave the town square.

We've asked Wright if he wanted to clarify his comments, and are waiting to hear back.

UPDATE: Wright just told us he wasn't at the event, so he couldn't address what the Buzz saw or heard. He said decisions should have been made by the property owner.

[Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 5:33pm]

    

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