Ruth: Scott's Cabinet starts to grow a spine

Published Jan. 21, 2015

For this week's lesson in Tallahassee science, let us consider this question: How long does it take for a member of the Florida Cabinet to grow a spine?

Early evidence, based on the lab specimen of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, would suggest achieving a modicum of scruple density takes about a week. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's X-ray looks to still be an evolving piece of goo, and Attorney General Pam Bondi's backbone remains marinating in the petri dish of the Capitol's den of knaves.

A week after Gov. Rick Scott misled, undermined and duped the independently elected Cabinet into going along with his baseless firing of long-serving Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, Atwater finally woke up and perhaps said to himself, "Hey, wait a minute here. This whole thing smells sorta fishy."

Do you think?

Perhaps Atwater had an inkling he had been played for a chump by Scott when Bailey bluntly denied he had resigned from his post and that the governor was a big honking liar for suggesting otherwise.

For days, L'affaire Bailey has been gaining traction and causing outrage, especially after the de-badged Bailey started singing like a bird as to how Scott sent his general counsel to deliver the ultimatum "resign or retire" — or be fired. Bailey noted he was told the Cabinet was on board with Scott's decision to remove him, which was — ahem — a pile of Limburger.

Then Bailey detailed efforts by Scott and his Tallahassee Star Chamber to pressure the FDLE to trump up phony charges against Orange County Clerk of Court Colleen Reilly, after two prison inmates managed to forge paperwork from her office in a successful plot to escape from the Franklin Correctional Institution.

Bailey refused to acquiesce to Scott's Lummox Bow conspiracy. Nor did the ousted FDLE chief succumb to entreaties to help out the governor's re-election campaign, or accept overtures to participate in blatantly political discussions about Scott's second-term agenda. Ergo the heave-ho.

As it became increasingly obvious that: a) Bailey had been sacked for precious little reasoning other than he had declined the offer to become the governor's pet, and b) the Cabinet, which should have been consulted on any changes at the FDLE, had been grifted, momentum started to build to introduce Scott to a concept entirely foreign to him.


Florida Democratic Senate and House leaders, Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, called for a legislative probe of Scott's "misuse of power," which is certainly very nice, but unlikely to gain much bipartisan support.

Atwater is another matter. The CFO wrote a letter to the governor critical of Bailey's treatment and requested the hiring of a new FDLE commissioner be revisited. Scott wrote back essentially patting Atwater on the head and dismissing his concerns.

Putnam is still mulling over just how outraged he ought to be. But Bondi's silence is deafening and telling. Just days ago, Bondi had claimed she intended to focus on preventing the scourge of bullying during her second term.

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But Bondi's bullying crusade peters out with the gubernatorial hooligan sitting next to her in the Cabinet room.

By sending his general counsel to fire the FDLE commissioner, who was only months away from his retirement, Scott has made Baileygate is a cowardly scandal entirely of his own making.

To be sure, the governor has exposed himself as a petty politician who will extract retribution against a career cop who adhered to his principles and did his job.

Even worse, Scott's act of betrayal has polluted the Cabinet. How can Putnam, Bondi or Atwater have any confidence they can trust the governor's word, or not wonder what duplicity he is cooking up behind their backs?

Scott, now revealed as the Rasputin of Tallahassee, owes the Cabinet and the rest of the state a full apologetic explanation for his treatment of Bailey. And the chief law enforcement officer of the state needs to, well, act like the chief law enforcement officer of the state instead of the dog-walker-in-chief.

This could be a very long four years. Long, but entertaining. Let the shames begin.