Rick Scott draws elections complaint over on-duty officers in campaign events

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A retired Broward County law enforcement officer filed an elections complaint saying Gov. Rick Scott broke the law when using on-duty law enforcement as part of political campaign events.

The grievance also claims Scott enlisted the officers’ help under false pretenses.

Retired Police Lieutenant Jeff Marano of Hollywood, a 30-year veteran of Broward County law enforcement and former Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, filed a complaint on Thursday under Florida Elections Statutes 104.31 F.S. and 106.15(3).

“Florida’s police and law enforcement dedicate themselves to public service and put their lives on the line every day,” said Marano, who serves as president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.

On June 16 and July 7, the governor’s office asked on-duty police officers to attend events to provide security. They were surprised to learn that the events were, in fact, political campaign events.

“They deserve better than to be used by Rick Scott as props in his political campaign,” Marano said. “They deserve nothing less than his utmost respect.”

Under Florida 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.”

Marano asserts that Scott’s political campaign violated the law by soliciting the assistance of on-duty law enforcement officers — under the “false pretense of security” – and repeatedly featured them as “political props” as backdrops for campaign events.

“Rick Scott crossed the line,” Murano added. “And it’s time for him to take responsibility and stop blaming his violation of Florida law on those sworn to protect our families.”

The Florida Democratic Party responded with a statement saying Scott would “do anything to win a second term.”

“Governor Scott is proud to have the support of Florida’s law enforcement community, including the Florida Police Chiefs Association and 40 Florida sheriffs,” said Scott spokesperson Greg Blair. “This is 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.”

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 [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.