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Panuccio clears another committee, but Latvala awaits

At this pace, the man who oversaw the troubled launch of Florida’s troubled unemployment website will soon be the state’s go-to guy on all things technology.

On Monday, Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, won his second round of confirmation to his $141,000 job with an 11-0 vote by the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Four Democrats and seven Republicans approved  Panuccio’s confirmation -- which some hoped would provide him a chance to instruct others on complicated technical issues.

“Put down a few ideas, based on your experience with this project,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who said Panuccio had performed exemplary. “‘How can we avoid some of these pitfalls?’ -- is my big question you can answer later on.”

Panuccio has been busy rounding up support, and, according to Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, it’s been effective.

“This is our man, he’s met with everybody, and he continues to meet with everybody to update them,” Bean said.

Panuccio has two more committees, Community Affairs and Ethics and Elections, before he’s up for a floor vote by senators.

Even though Panuccio has won unanimous support so far, his confirmation is no sure thing.

Last year, he passed the committee confirmation process, only never to come up on the floor for a vote. The senator who comes up with that list, as chair of the ethics and elections committee, is Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Latvala stepped out last week when the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on transportation, tourism and economic development approved Panuccio’s first confirmation, and didn’t vote. His committee is the last one Panuccio must clear.

He wouldn’t say on Monday which way he would vote on the confirmation.

“We’ll just have to see,” Latvala said.

 

Comments

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Bill Thompson

That's great, put a lawyer in charge of IT after he screwed up royally on the unemployment claims system. And use the citizens confiscated money to pay him $141,000 to screw up more projects.

Maybe they will next appoint a gardener to be in charge of economic development.

Jefferson Knight

Check your dates: Panuccio inherited the website problems, had zip to do with selecting the contractor or designing the system. He was appointed only slightly more than 1 year ago. The Herald's writers, of course, know this - but prefer to smear good people it if advances their agenda of getting a Democrat in the Guv mansion.

Fire Panuccio

Fire this bad hire
Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

There’s this thing in real life called accountability. As in, “You botched it, now step up, take responsibility for your mistake and fix the problem.” But these days accountability is taking a back seat in Tallahassee. For that matter, we’re not sure it’s even along for the ride. Cronyism and revising history are definitely on board, however.

Jesse Panuccio, the acting executive director of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity and Gov. Rick Scott’s former general counsel, saw his confirmation to the job he’s been doing for 15 months get preliminary approval from the state Senate’s appropriations committee on transportation, tourism and economic development last week. And oh, what praise committee members heaped on the 33-year-old who oversees 1,621 employees and an $872.7 million budget.

“I’m not just going to support you, I’m going to do everything I can in the process to make sure you get to the end,” crooned the committee chairman, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I think what helps is when this issue happened with the website, unlike some other areas in the state and Washington that just pointed fingers … we took ownership of it and we fixed it. And we addressed it. And I think that that, in my opinion, is leadership.”

Wow. Such high praise for the man overseeing CONNECT, a $63-million website with so many problems after its launch on Oct. 15 that thousands of Floridians couldn’t get much-needed unemployment benefits on time. It took ages for Mr. Panuccio to acknowledge how serious the site’s problems were, and then he didn’t “own” them. He, instead, blamed the vendor hired to set up the site, Deloitte Consulting. In explaining the problems to lawmakers last fall, he also blamed the media for exaggerating CONNECT’s glitches, despite the fact that, beyond numerous press reports on the problems, hundreds of complaints by then had gone to elected representatives or been posted on state social-media sites. Yet he still tried to gloss over the site’s glitches — which still continue.

It wasn’t until January that Mr. Panuccio finally recognized what a big problem he had and hired 330 extra employees, at a cost of $165,000 a week, and another consultant for $600,000 to deal with the faulty website and lagging claim payments. Contrast this to California, which experienced problems on a similar website. California paid the claims first, sparing its jobless residents more hardship, and then it knuckled down to fix the site.

And, as Michael Van Sickler of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau pointed out in an analysis on Monday, Mr. Panuccio didn’t get around to hiring the extra workers until well after Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and federal officials persuaded Mr. Panuccio to pay all claims that had been dragging on. So, despite what Sen. Gardiner claims, it was federal authorities and Sen. Nelson, not Mr. Panuccio, who acted responsibly on behalf of unemployed Floridians. Mr. Panuccio’s agency still hasn’t released any data that can show how well, or not so well, CONNECT is working today.

That’s not leadership. That’s incompetence. Mr. Panuccio’s confirmation has two more committees and a floor vote in the Senate. If confirmed, he will earn $141,000 a year. His confirmation shouldn’t be politically greased, as it appears to be. In truth, it should never happen. He doesn’t deserve it. Instead Mr. Panuccio should find himself out of work and consigned to use the very website he so ineptly oversaw.

Now that’s accountability.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/17/v-print/4001315/fire-this-bad-hire.html#storylink=cpy

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