Romano: Lack of integrity hangs over FDLE mess

Questions persist on how FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey left office.
Questions persist on how FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey left office.
Published Feb. 1, 2015

Based on what we know, there seem to be two possible conclusions about Gerald Bailey's departure as head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


1. Gov. Rick Scott and/or his staff got approval from a Cabinet member, or Cabinet staff, to force Bailey's resignation. If this was the case, it would appear to be a clear violation of the Sunshine Law that requires such matters to be discussed in a public forum.


2. Scott and/or his staff acted unilaterally in forcing Bailey out. If this was the case, it was a clear violation of the governor's constitutional authority, which requires at least one other Cabinet member's approval to oust an FDLE leader.

So why hasn't an investigation been launched?

Wouldn't that seem logical? Prudent? Necessary?

Not that this rises to the level of Watergate. Or the Iran-Contra affair. Lives were not lost, and the future of democracy is not at stake.

But there are ramifications if the state's most powerful leaders decide they can ignore the Constitution or the Sunshine Law and get away, um, Scott free.

For context, consider this case:

In 2012, three state Supreme Court justices inadvertently failed to file election paperwork for their merit retention races. In their rush to meet the deadline, they had a staff member notarize their forms. One legislator viewed this as a violation of a law prohibiting government staff from working on a candidate's campaign during business hours.

So Scott ordered an FDLE investigation.

Over a notary stamp.

Yet today, there is only hemming and hawing over the distinct possibility that the governor either abused his authority or the Cabinet circumvented the Sunshine Law.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who wraps herself in the Constitution every time her crusade against same-sex marriage is brought up, essentially exonerated the governor of possible constitutional overreach last week by blaming nameless underlings who apparently wield more power in Tallahassee than the actual Cabinet.

Think about that. Bondi says it wasn't the governor who defied the Cabinet or the Constitution by unilaterally forcing Bailey out. It was his staff.

And that's not worth an investigation?

In the end, you can bet this will blow over with very little fallout. Even if there is some sort of formal inquiry, chances are that a low-level wrist will be slapped or the governor will throw one of his staff members in front of the investigation bus.

And that would be sad. Not because I think the governor or the Cabinet should be thrown to the curb. This isn't an administration-breaking affair.

What's sad is that, at the very least, the spirit of the law was circumvented, and none of our leaders have enough integrity to pursue, or even acknowledge that.

The governor keeps insisting Bailey resigned of his own accord. As if anyone believes Bailey would suddenly decide to end his 35-year career with two hours notice and a three-sentence letter that never mentions the words resign or retire.

Scott made a mockery of Bailey's career, and now he's making a mockery of his own administration by refusing to admit what everyone can plainly see.

This doesn't have to be a quest for blood. No one is calling for Scott's head. This has risen to the level of scandal only because the governor won't admit mistakes were made.

Scott wants to run government like business. He wants to play the part of a tough, cold-blooded, do-what-it-takes CEO. Fair enough.

Then be tough enough to admit when you screwed up.