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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Florida voters have no way to recall Gov. Rick Scott, Cabinet

Published Feb. 19, 2015

It came into this world at 11:21 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2011, a happy, bouncing bundle of hope and idealism. It died lonely, forgotten and neglected at 2:07 a.m. less than four months later, a victim of Tallahassee double standards and incumbent political tokus protection.

For the past several weeks, as disclosures have mounted over Gov. Rick Scott's abrupt dismissal of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, questions have popped up about whether there is any way for voters to remove a Florida governor from office.

The answer to that question is no.

The issue is particularly intriguing since Attorney General Pam Bondi appears to be uninterested in pursuing allegations that the sacking of Bailey was either: A) related to the FDLE chief's steadfast refusal to allow the governor to politicize the agency; and/or B) whether Scott's actions violated the state's government-in-the-open Sunshine Laws.

Given Bondi's Officer Krupke-esque indifference to, you know, actually performing her duties as the state's chief legal officer, it would appear Scott is going to get away with thumbing his nose at proper protocols and legal niceties.

It didn't have to be this way.

Before he became mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman was a lowly Democratic backbench state representative in Tallahassee. In 2011, he filed what would be become HJR 785, a measure that would have paved the way for a voter initiative to recall the "Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Members of the Cabinet or Legislators" from office.

At first blush, it might seem Kriseman's legislation was inspired by the election of a governor who as CEO of Columbia/HCA oversaw a company that had paid a then record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Scott's invoking of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times in an unrelated civil litigation case hardly boosted the new governor's reputation for integrity.

"It wasn't done with him (Scott) in mind,'' Kriseman said, insisting he had been working on his recall bill before Scott took office. The absence of any statute to remove the state's most powerful elected figures seemed to Kriseman as another example ". . . where the Legislature imposed rules on local government but not on state officials."

Kriseman was moved to act because at the time, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, was embroiled in what would eventually become a successful recall referendum to remove him from office. Ironically, Kriseman noted, one of the leaders of the Alvarez recall movement in Miami-Dade was then-Republican House member Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who is now Florida's lieutenant governor.

"It seemed patently unfair," the mayor said.

As a very much in the minority member in the Florida House, Kriseman acknowledged he knew his recall bill had as much chance of becoming law as O.J. Simpson winning a full presidential pardon. "I filed it more as a statement," Kriseman said. "The odds weren't great."

In fact, Kriseman's recall legislation withered away and died in the House Government Operations Subcommittee.

So in light of the governor's indifference to stuff like the Sunshine Law, does Kriseman feel just a bit prescient? The mayor chuckled slightly. "I would have at least liked to have had a hearing (on the bill)," he said, adding: "If circumstances warrant, there should be an opportunity."

And as long as Rick Scott sits in the Governor's Mansion, there ought to be a mother lode of opportunities.