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Gov. Scott defends office, staff against criticism of FDLE ouster

Sen. Arthenia Joyner claims Scott violated Florida's Constitution

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Associated Press' pre-session meeting is generally meant to focus on legislative priorities; 2015's annual get-together had a different tone. A war of words broke out between a top Democrat and the governor.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said at the same meeting later in the day that she believed staff, and not the governor, forced former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Chief Gerald Bailey to resign.

Senate Democratic leader Arthenia Joyner didn't mince words about how she felt in the wake of the governor's handling of the Bailey's firing, going so far as to say Gov. Rick Scott violated Florida's Constitution.

"Only unconstrained hubris explains a governor who believes he can fire people without proper authority," Joyner said.

Cabinet member and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam also blasted the firing by saying the Cabinet was misled.

"Gerry Bailey is a fine man and he served our state very well, and the way that he was treated at the end of his distinguished career was shabby," Putnam said.

The governor adamantly defended his office and his staff against the harsh criticism.

"The attacks against me are absolutely untrue and they're ridiculous," Scott said.

Scott's inner circle has come under fire. His chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, is a veteran of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's campaign.

Two other high-ranking Scott staffers are also from the same camp. A Louisiana insurance official is now being recruited as a replacement to lead Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation. The staffers have come to be known as the Louisiana Mafia.

"Evidently the governor has an affinity for Louisianans, and all these good high-paying jobs he keeps talking about, they're going to people out of state," Joyner said.

The governor and staff didn't have much to say about it on their way out.