1. Florida Politics

Calls for FDLE investigations grow as Gov. Rick Scott continues to avoid questions

Published Dec. 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — As Gov. Rick Scott on Friday continued to brush off questions about allegations of political meddling made by the state's former top law enforcement officer, pressure mounted elsewhere in Florida to get answers.

A Land O'Lakes man filed a formal complaint with the FBI asking for an investigation into a series of claims made last week by Gerald Bailey, whom Scott ousted as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"There's a clear indication of tampering with criminal investigations and FDLE that an impartial investigator needs to take a look at," said Jim Frissell, a 58-year-old engineer and former Indiana deputy sheriff.

Frissell sent his complaint to Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who, along with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, said on Thursday that a third party should investigate Bailey's allegations, which included charges that Scott's office or campaign pressured him to fudge details in a criminal investigation, shuttle campaign workers in state vehicles, expedite a criminal investigation of a possible Scott appointee and craft Scott's campaign platform on law enforcement.

Scott's office has broadly deemed Bailey's allegations to be "false" or "petty."

Frissell disagrees with Putnam's suggestion that the FDLE's inspector general could handle the case and hopes to persuade him to push for a federal investigation.

"FDLE appears to be under political pressure by the governor's office," Frissell wrote Putnam. "Therefore, the FDLE would NOT be independent to fully investigate this matter."

Putnam's spokeswoman, Erin Gillespie, confirmed he received Frissell's request and "looks forward to reviewing it."

One of the most serious allegations from Bailey is that former Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth pressured him to claim that the acting clerk of court in Orange County, Colleen Reilly, was the target of a 2013 FDLE criminal inquiry after two prison inmates used forged papers from her office to plot their escape. Such a maneuver would have shifted the blame from the agency that released the prisoners, the Department of Corrections that Scott oversees, but Bailey said he refused.

On Friday, for the first time since her name surfaced in the standoff between Scott and Bailey, Reilly issued a public statement, siding with the lawman.

"I have only one statement about all of this," Reilly said in an email. "A man who, at significant personal risk, stands on principle to protect a stranger from a grave injustice, is a hero. I do not know Gerald Bailey, but he obviously is a man of courage and integrity. He has my respect, admiration and gratitude."

Reilly now works in Plano, Texas, for a technology firm. She wouldn't comment further.

During news conferences Friday in Miramar and Winter Park, Scott stepped up his criticism of Bailey, saying that it was only after he "agreed to step down" that he "decided to make attacks."

A tense exchange with reporters in Winter Park occurred after Scott refused to answer whether his office pushed to falsely name Reilly's office in the criminal investigation, or if he would call for a third-party investigation.

"Is that all you have?" he asked reporters before ducking into a car to leave. "See you guys."

The Bailey affair erupted Jan. 13 after a Cabinet meeting where Putnam, Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi unanimously approved Scott's choice to replace Bailey, Rick Swearingen.

At the time of the vote, the Cabinet seemed to support the change in guard, even as members were told that Bailey, who was widely respected, said he left unwillingly. Only later did the three Cabinet members distance themselves from Scott's move, suggesting they were misled.

They've all recommended that they discuss the FDLE matter at the Feb. 5 Cabinet meeting, but can't agree whether it should be held at the scheduled State Fair venue in Tampa, which Scott prefers, or moved back to Tallahassee, which Putnam favors.

For Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, the most troubling aspect of the Bailey saga is that it exposed secret interactions between the staffs of the governor and Cabinet that violate the state's meetings laws, which require public business be conducted in the open.

Both Scott and the Cabinet members have explained that the decision to replace Bailey was communicated via staff members. At the time of the vote to approve Swearingen, there was no public discussion about why the move was being made.

"It took the dumping of Bailey to make this come to light," Petersen said. "There was a major decision to force the resignation of someone who is respected, then hire someone who isn't on anyone's radar screen, and there's no discussion? It smacks of collusion."

Jason Garcia of Florida Trend contributed to this report.


  1. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House. Grall is sponsoring a bill for the second time that would require parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion.
    The legislation would enact a consent requirement for minors.
  2. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    He could use his position on the Board of Clemency to allow nonviolent felons to serve on juries and run for office.
  3. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  4. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks supporters including Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, left, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    This new fact indicates an attempt to directly influence DeSantis’ early policy agenda as he took office, one that DeSantis said was unsuccessful.
  5. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  6. President Donald Trump speaking during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    And few people are on the fence.
  7. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Knuhne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The full Senate will vote on the issue Wednesday.
  8. Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018, push petitions for 2020 ban on assault weapons in Florida. (Miami Herald) MIAMI HERALD
    After months of glitches, the Department of State is resorting to a paper workaround while ballot initiatives face higher costs.
  9. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.
    The Naples Republican recently refused to rule out a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
  10. Former Pasco County Corrections Officer Wendy Miller, 57 runs towards gunfire with instructor Chris Squitieri during active shooter drills taught by Pasco County Sheriff's Office at Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. These drills are put are a larger training program for the Guardian program that will staff elementary schools with trained armed guards.  LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The change is a reversal of a previous move by the department, which specifically excluded armed teachers from its policy.