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PR whoops! On duty police officers attend political event but they weren’t working it

» Posted by on Jul 8, 2014


If you don’t live in Florida then you may not be aware that it’s quite a contest going on in the race for governor.

Gov. Rick Scott, Republican, is running for a second term against Charlie Crist, a Democrat who used to be a Republican and is the former governor.

Yep, it’s an interesting race.

Anyway, plot thickened today when on duty police officers who were not working the event showed up for a campaign stop for Scott.

charlie crist rick scott

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott and former Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist.

According to a report in the Naples News: “At least a half-dozen on-duty law officers in uniform took part in a re-election event for Gov. Rick Scott in Tampa despite Florida laws saying public employees must avoid political activity during working hours.

“Spokesmen for two of the agencies involved, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said their officers’ attendance at an event Monday resulted from a misunderstanding; they thought they were invited either to provide security or that it was an official governor’s office event.”

But to complicate things for the Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff David Gee is a Republican.

It’s a big uh-oh all around.

Besides looking really bad, except for elected officials, it’s against the law because employees “of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”

I think we can assume that Scott’s camp was thrilled as the optics for the governor were great with all those law enforcement there as cameras taped and snapped away; Crist’s camp no so much as this mishap is clearly unfair.

And I am guess that we will also see this footage turn up in campaign ads about how the governor is a ‘friend of law enforcement.’

According to media reports, both the state Division of Elections and the Ethics Commission on Elections Commission, would not comment on how the law applies to this situation or what, if anything, would happen.

Given that elections happen all the time and the governor’s race is at least every four years, these agencies should have a policy in place to make sure a screw up like this doesn’t happen again.

Oh, and by the way, that may not be a bad thing for the agencies to mention–that in light of this unfortunate event they have such a policy now and they’ve learned their lesson!

Let’s see what happens.


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Glenn Selig founded The Publicity Agency in 2007 and has represented some of the biggest newsmakers and most influential business leaders and companies nationwide. He is a frequent guest on MSNBC, Fox News Channel and on CNN. Reporters call him for an expert PR opinion on high profile cases to offer perspective. He also appears on air to publicly defend his clients. View the PR firm website and follow him on Twitter @GlennSelig