Scott's delay on key appointment likely avoided embarrassment
As the Florida political world knows all too well, Gov. Rick Scott takes his time in filling appointments to boards, commissions and vacancies that arise as a result of deaths or resignations by public officials. A good example is the Commission on Ethics, where the terms of four of five Scott appointees expired last June, but they soldier on as lame-duck members.
In one high-profile case, however, Scott's failure to act may have spared him a major embarrassment. It's the case involving a plot to fraudulently spring two convicted murderers from a state prison.
Last May, Orange County Clerk of Courts Lydia Gardner, a highly respected public servant who was serving her fourth term, died in office after a long battle with cancer. Six months later, Scott has not named a replacement. The office is being run by Colleen Reilly, Gardner's top deputy, who was appointed interim clerk by Orange County Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry.
Yes -- Belvin Perry. Ring a bell? It should. He's the judge whose signature was doctored to make it appear that he shortened the prison terms of two killers, Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, who were sprung from the Franklin Correctional Institution in recent weeks with doctored papers that were processed by the Orange County clerk's office. Both convicts were soon captured in Panama City Beach.
Scott's critics would have had a field day if the phony paperwork had been approved by one of his appointees (imagine this headline: Did Scott's appointee help free killers?) No one in the clerk's office has been directly implicated in any wrongdoing, but FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey told legislators this week that the criminal probe is continuing and that arrests are expected.
Scott is expected to appoint a clerk for Orange County in the next few weeks.