Broward cop: Rick Scott’s “shameful” response over on-duty police at campaign stops

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Using on-duty police officers as backdrops for campaign events, a possible violation of state law, is causing more headaches for Gov. Rick Scott.

“I was so deeply disappointed in Rick Scott misleading law enforcement into appearing at his campaign events while on-duty that I filed an elections complaint against him this morning,” said Jeff Marano in a statement. “Since then, new evidence has emerged and things have gotten much worse for Rick Scott.”

Marano is the former Broward County law enforcement officer and county union boss who filed an elections complaint against Scott for using law enforcement without their knowledge as part of political campaign events.  As president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, he filed a complaint on Thursday under the Florida Elections Statutes.

Under state law, no “officer or employee of the state,” shall “[d]irectly or indirectly coerce” a state employee to participate in a political organization, because “employees “of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”

In addition, candidates “may not, in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office in any election, use the services of any state, county, municipal, or district officer or employee during working hours.”

“Governor Scott is proud to have the support of Florida’s law enforcement community, including the Florida Police Chiefs Association and 40 Florida sheriffs,” responded Scott spokesperson Greg Blair, calling the complaint “just another sad distraction from Charlie Crist’s numerous ethical problems, including his broken promise to be transparent by releasing tax returns for both himself and his spouse.”

That did not sit well with Marano.

“Rick Scott’s campaign has blamed the law enforcement officers, saying the campaign told the officers the events were political,” he said. “But that is just not true. A top law enforcement official in Hillsborough, Police Colonel Jim Previtera, has now come forward to say he was told a recent Scott event was official, not political.”

Previtera, the top sheriff’s official for Hillsborough County, told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times that he insists he was not told a recent Scott event in Tampa event was campaign-related. Previtera also said he was told the governor’s event was official, as a promotion for the state’s drop in crime, not to endorse his re-election.

“It is beyond shameful that Rick Scott would throw the brave men and women of Florida’s law enforcement under the bus to further his political campaign,” Marano said.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.