TALLAHASSEE — Protesters should not have been removed from a state budget signing ceremony in the Villages last week, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.
Spokesman Brian Burgess said the governor did not order anyone to be kicked out of the May 26 event. But he said Scott would take responsibility.
"There appears to have been confusion among event staff, including an employee of the Governor's Office, about whether the event was public or private," Burgess said.
The admission was an about-face from Scott's office. Press secretary Lane Wright said a week ago that no one from Scott's office played a role in the ordeal.
Scott said Thursday that he was aware protesters were removed, but did not know the facts. After several questions from reporters, Scott said he would look into the matter.
Burgess said Friday: "Although it was held on private property that was reserved for the event, the public was invited to attend. The field staffer should not have participated in decisions related to event attendance or admission to the venue."
Although Burgess' statement did not mention the staffer by name, a St. Petersburg Times reporter witnessed Scott staffer Russ Abrams ask Sumter County Sheriff's Office deputies to remove anyone with signs that didn't support Scott. That amounted to a group of more than a dozen Democrats.
"Gov. Scott requested and received assurances from the employee, the employee's supervisor, and his entire staff, that this confusion and the results it created will not happen again," Burgess said.
He added: "The governor accepts responsibility for decisions by his staff."
The statement did not include an apology to the people barred from the event.