By Trevor Aaronson
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
After his ouster as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gerald Bailey alleged that he was forced to resign in January because he resisted efforts by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to influence investigations and internal hiring.
In February, a coalition of news and open government organizations, partnering with St. Petersburg lawyer Matthew Weidner, filed a lawsuit in Leon County alleging that the staff of Gov. Rick Scott “polled, discussed and exchanged communications” about Bailey’s ouster with the aides of the Florida Cabinet members — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law requires that such communications occur in a public meeting, with advance notice given to the public. Instead, these communications occurred privately in violation of state law, the lawsuit alleged.
The plaintiffs — which include the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and the state’s largest newspapers — asked the Scott administration and other Cabinet aides to turn over all communications among staff related in any way to Bailey’s resignation. The Scott administration and Cabinet aides have begun to provide these communications. FCIR is making these documents available, in their entirety, to the public as we receive them. They are keyword searchable through optical character recognition (OCR) technology.
The documents provided so far indicate that Cabinet officials communicated about Bailey’s ouster and replacement. In a text message exchange, Amanda Bevis, deputy chief of staff for Commissioner Putnam, asked her boss: “Don’t you wish you’d made them follow through and do the right thing? But had no idea Bailey would speak today. If you had forced it, they’d blame all this coverage on you.”
“Yep,” Putnam responded by text message.
The documents so far provided include:
- The calendar, text messages and emails of Peter Antonacci, Scott’s former general counsel;
- The calendar, text messages and emails of Ben Gibson, Scott’s assistant general counsel;
- The calendar, text messages and emails of Melissa Sellers, Scott’s chief of staff;
- The text messages and emails of Monica Russell, Scott’s director of cabinet affairs;
- Text messages of Amanda Bevis and Brooke McKnight, senior aides to Putnam.
- Use the search bar below to find specific words in the documents. A single document may contains hundreds of pages of messages. If you’re searching for a specific name, put it in quotes. “Rick Scott” will only bring back documents that include the words Rick and Scott together. Rick Scott, without quotes, will return documents that include the words Rick and Scott somewhere but not necessarily together.
- Your search may bring up multiple documents. Go to each document, and then use the search bar in the upper right of the document viewer to search that specific document for your term. It will bring you to the raw text version of the email with the word(s) you’re searching for highlighted. You may read the email from there, or you can switch over to the properly formatted version of the email by clicking on the “Document” tab in the upper left.