Gov. Rick Scott faces new roadblocks in trying to fire heads of three Cabinet-level agencies at the start of his second term. At Wednesday's meeting of policy aides to Scott and Cabinet members, Scott's aide appeared to contradict the governor's own intentions on whether those agency heads should be present next Tuesday when new performance measures are discussed.
The push for new "metrics" follows the botched dismissal of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who lost his job with no review or public discussion of his performance, which has triggered a lawsuit alleging the Sunshine law was broken. Scott replaced Bailey on an interim basis with another FDLE veteran, Rick Swearingen, whose appointment was later ratified by the Cabinet. The surprise maneuver allowed Scott to have unilateral power to appoint a powerful agency head who also reports to the three independently-elected Cabinet members, Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam.
At the aides' meeting, Scott Cabinet aide Monica Russell, who chaired the meeting, released his plan for reviewing performances of agency heads, which in some cases require that "100 percent" of goals be achieved within 30 days. That's probably unattainable, and it would make it easier to justify firing an agency head -- and the one whose head is closest to the chopping block is Kevin McCarty, who runs the Office of Insurance Regulation. The others are Marshall Stranburg at the Department of Revenue and Drew Breakspear at the Office of Financial Regulation.
Aides to Attorney General Pam Bondi said the agencies deserve a voice in how their track records are judged. "I think we'd need to hear from the agency themselves," Bondi Cabinet aide Rob Johnson told Russell. "I think we need to figure out a way to get them here to answer the questions that my principal (Bondi) may have ... Are you going to formally invite them?"
"Well, they won't be on the agenda, obviously, but yes, we're going to invite them to be here," Russell replied.
That wasn't Scott's plan. At the last Cabinet meeting on Feb. 5, Scott made it clear he wanted a discussion of the agencies' performance measures to take place without the agency heads present.
A transcript of the meeting shows Scott saying: "What we might want to do, and I think what we ought to do is, let's take those three and just among the four of us and say, how -- what will be our recommendation on how we review those agencies, but without them there." (Emphasis added).
As confusion reigned, Scott''s office issued a statement that left the decision up to the agency heads. "Those agencies do not have presentations scheduled. However, it would be beneficial for them to attend in the event Cabinet members have questions on their agency."