Well, you would think you were all hopped up on poppers and funnel cake, spinning around on a Tilt-A-Whirl before vomiting in front of a funhouse mirror – you look crazy! – the way that political lies and recriminations have been swirling around Bailey-gate up there in Tallahassee. In fact, you might as well have been, because, although once again we are witnessing a scandal involving Gov. Rick Scott turning into a puff of cotton candy, it's impossible to understand how there aren't some kind of regulations keeping the governor from running roughshod over public records and public meeting laws. It's like Florida is drunk and upside down on a broken carnival ride, basically.
Also, literally. On Feb. 5, just one day after a huge lawsuit was filed by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press and others alleging that former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey was forced to resign behind closed doors, the governor took to a horse pavilion at the state fairgrounds in Tampa (seriously) in order to say "the buck stops here" out loud and think that it meant something.--
0: The number of days between the forced resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey and the appointment of Gov. Rick Scott's friend and director of Capitol Police, Rick Swearingen
The occasion was the apparent stunt of a horse-drawn Cabinet meeting in the festering manure of a fair, even though Agriculture Commissioner (and Cabinet drawer) Adam Putnam urged Scott to relocate the meeting to Tallahassee. You see, the governor and his Cabinet, thought Putnam, should probably not give the appearance of whimsy in the face of scandal. Turns out, Putnam was wrong. Whimsy was about all that came out of what should have been one of the most important discussions of the governor's questionable tenure.
Here's how it played out on Thursday morning, according to the Tampa Bay Times: "The result was a wonkish discussion of procedures for evaluating agency heads and a consensus that Scott and the Cabinet will set new performance benchmarks next month to evaluate Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, revenue director Marshall Stranburg and banking regulator Drew Breakspear." They're all fired, then.--
5: Number of times on Jan. 13 that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deflected questions about Bailey's departure with the same phrase, "I think the world of Commissioner Bailey."
So, moving forward (and never looking back), the state is going to actually evaluate its employees before firing them? Sounds like work! The event was, in essence, a charade to deflect criticisms that the entire foundation of Florida's executive branch is cracked and sinking. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater made a (probably insincere) motion to have Bailey's replacement, Rick Swearingen, voted on again because of "perceptions of favoritism." Crickets. Nobody seconded.
Putnam chimed in with an attempt to get clarity on just how Scott's office attempted to politicize the FDLE by forcing Bailey to criminalize an innocent court clerk (Bailey did not comply), but the crickets returned. Only the blinding haze of Bondi's inverted genius gained consensus, and that's because she, according to the Times, will now be in charge of making sure that Cabinet staff members know not to operate in secret. Just stew on that for a minute.--
2: Number of days it took Bondi to change her tone, via spokeswoman, and issue a statement on Jan. 15 that said "Attorney General Bondi is dissatisfied with the manner in which this matter was handled."
After the meeting, Scott, as he is wont to do, referred reporters to the newly convenient (and now daily) FAQ missives his press office is sending out, because he's not really into answering questions that don't involve the words "jobs" and "business."
He doesn't have to. State Attorney Willie Meggs has made it clear that, even with all of the evidence to the contrary, he doesn't believe that there is anything to this Sunshine Law case, something that may have been communicated to him while he was enjoying bourbon and steak with Scott and his minions at a dinner on Jan. 9. We're certain nobody had anything to say about Bailey over dessert.
Even so, Democrats were still fuming in their futility over the Bailey issue even after the Thursday horse show, according to the Times.
"We do have the ability to subpoena," Florida House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford said. "We do have an ability to hold hearings and take testimony. More pressure would be on the Legislature if the Cabinet doesn't want to take corrective action and begin that process today."
Well, apparently the Cabinet doesn't. Nor, likely, does the conservative Legislature.
"We all went to high school," State Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood, the Democratic policy chair, told reporters, according to the Times. "We all know what bullying looks like. This is just a grown-up manifestation that's found a couple of square miles from where we work. It's kind of sad at this point."