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Scott reaches into his own pocket to pay head-hunting firm

Correction: staff salaries for nine weeks are $146,000.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott is so committed to finding outsiders to staff his administration, he's reaching into his own pocket for more than $125,000 to pay the salaries and expenses of a New York head-hunting firm he's found to recruit talent, according to an agreement obtained by the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times.

The agreement signed by Scott and the Gerson Group, however, demands that any confidential documents the recruiters obtain in the process be kept strictly confidential -- even though state law requires that transition documents be public record.

"It's a sensitive process for all the applicants to go through,'' said Brian Burgess, Scott spokesman. "We want to be sensitive to how the recruiting and vetting process affects people's lives."

Scott, a former health care executive and multi-millionaire, will use state money to pay 16 staffers at least $146,000 for nine weeks of work on his transition, documents released by the transition team show.

The Legislature has budgeted $800,000 for the governor's transition, as part of a $1.5 million transition fund set aside for the governor and all three Cabinet offices. "We'll probably use every penny of it -- but we won't go over,'' Burgess said.

If Scott's transition does break the budget will the new governor make up the difference?  "We, as a transition team, don't want to set that precedent either," Burgess said.

According to the contract signed by Scott with the New York-based Gerson Group, he will pay their consultants, Tim D'Elia and Jake Hale, $25,000 for their work through Nov. 15, $50,000 for their work through Dec.15 and $50,000 for their work through Jan. 15.

Although the transition team is required to make all documents public, the agreement also says that D'Elia and Hale will not reveal any confidential information they obtain and that all confidential information is the "exclusive property of the transition team."

The agreement does not define "confidential information" and Pat Gleason, Gov. Charlie Crist's public records attorney, said it appears that the language is standard for recruiting by private businesses. The transition team must keep confidential items, such as social security numbers, out of the public record, she said, but anything beyond that would not be consistent with the state open records laws.

Scott's goal is to hire "fresh faces," Burgess said. He is looking for people  who have either never worked in government or, if they have worked in government, Scott wants them to have had business experience and have met payroll, Burgess said.

Here's the compensation language:

"Other than reimbursement of costs and expenses (including for approved subcontracts) as discussed below, Consultant’s sole compensation for the satisfactory performance of services pursuant to this Agreement shall be payment of twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) for work performed through November 15, 2010, fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00) for work performed through December 15, 2010, and fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00) for work performed through January 15, 2011, payable after receipt and audit of Consultant’s monthly invoices as detailed below. "

Here is the confidentiality language:

"During the course of this Agreement, Consultant may come into the possession of confidential, non-public information that pertains to transition activity. Consultant acknowledges that any During the course of this Agreement, Consultant may come into the possession of confidential, non-public information that pertains to transition activity. Consultant acknowledges that any and all Confidential Information, in any form, provided to, generated by, or otherwise becoming known to it or its directors, officers, employees, consultants, or agents, by or through the Transition or in connection with or incident to this Agreement, is Confidential Information, and Consultant will not reveal, retain, duplicate, or use any such information in any fashion or for any purpose other than providing services under this Agreement. Consultant will protect Confidential
Information with at least the same degree of care it uses for its own confidential information and in no event exercise less than best efforts to ensure that it does not divulge or make accessible to any third party any Confidential Information. Confidential Information is the exclusive property of the transition team, and Consultant will immediately return all Confidential Information (including any copies, compilations and derivative works) to the transition team upon request or upon termination of the consulting services under this Agreement."