It's been a bad week for Rick Scott, and it's only getting worse.
In a move reminiscent of Mitt Romney's famous 2012 photo-op, when he used coal miners as campaign props who weren't paid for their time as anti-environmental, pro-coal human shields, Scott set out on another one of his PR tours yesterday, and it backfired all over his latest attempted warm and fuzzy governor moment:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is facing a tough re-election fight against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) kicked off a tour on Monday highlighting his tough-on-crime law enforcement credentials and his support for 85 percent mandatory minimums for anyone convicted of a crime. But while the presence of uniformed police officers at the event made it appear that they were there to support his approach, many apparently were simply on-duty officers who thought they were there to provide security — in violation of state’s ethics law.
Scott’s Tampa “Let’s Keep Florida Safe” event at Patrick’s Uniforms featured “at least a half-dozen on-duty law officers in uniform” providing the Governor with a “backdrop of uniformed law officers.” Their presence apparently was in violation of Section 104.31 of the Florida Statutes, which explicitly prohibits any “employee of the state or any political subdivision” from participation “in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”
Scott also used the event to announce his endorsement from the Florida Police Chiefs Association. One wonders if they would have been so quick to do so before the campaign event was staged, due to how Scott handled the situation when those involved found out they were being used as campaign props, in possible violation of the law, and taken off the streets when they should have been, well, you know, "keeping Florida safe."
Spokesmen for two of the agencies involved, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said their officers’ attendance resulted from a misunderstanding; they thought they were invited either to provide security or that it was an official governor’s office event.
“All the police departments around here were invited,” said Hillsborough sheriff’s Col. James Previtera when asked why he and other deputies attended the event.
Previtera said some of the deputies were on duty and some weren’t. Asked whether deputies routinely participate in political events during working time, he said, “I don’t know anything about that.”
Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee wasn’t available for comment, but Chief Deputy José Docobo said Previtera was unaware the gathering was a political campaign event.
“When he got back he briefed me that to his surprise it was a campaign stop as opposed to just the governor holding a press conference on crime, which is what Col. Previtera understood when he went,” Docobo said.
“Under those circumstances neither he nor the deputies would have been there. It is our policy not to attend political events in uniform or on duty.”
Craig Baker, an enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said he was on duty and attending the event at the order of his captain.
Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Wendy Purcell said Baker attended because his superiors thought the invitation was a request for an officer to assist the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which normally provides security for the governor.
The Scott campaign claimed everyone knew it was a campaign event, contrary to statements from the officers involved.
As so often happens when he fails miserably at something, and at this point, we're talking pretty much daily occurrences now, sometimes several times a day, he blamed others for it. Because he's all about accountability, don't you know?
A Scott campaign spokeswoman blamed the law enforcement officers for the error, telling the Tribune that the nature of the event was made clear in all invitations.
In short, Rick Scott is "keeping Florida safe" by taking on duty police officers off the streets and using them as campaign props, which in itself may be a violation of ethics and election laws.
Way to go, Governor McGruff! Don't you just feel safer already Florida?
Rick Scott has apparently updated the state's law enforcement motto:
"To Protect The Governor By Serving His Reelection Campaign."