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Scott jobs czar Swoope to get pay raise, severance deal

Gray Swoope, the job-seeker recruited to Florida from Mississippi by Gov. Rick Scott nearly three years ago, is in line to receive a hefty pay raise in addition to a severance package, to cushion his fall in case Scott is not re-elected and the next governor fires him.

Swoope, who holds the title of Secretary of Commerce and is CEO of Enterprise Florida, got a $70,000 bonus just last month. His base salary would increase from $230,000 a year to $275,000 a year following a vote Tuesday by Enterprise Florida's Finance & Compensation Committee. The action must be ratified by EFI's full board at a meeting in Miami later this month.

Under his new contract, Swoope also is eligible for an additional $100,000 in bonuses if he meets performance benchmarks over the next year. He also would get a severance check of $137,500, or half a year's salary, if he's terminated "without cause." The new contract is through June 30, 2015, after the 2014 election for governor, so there's little question that the severance pay is essentially an insurance policy in case Scott loses the election and a new governor replaces Swoope.

Swoope's base salary is paid with taxpayer money, and his incentive pay is from private sources.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Alan Becker, chairman of EFI's finance committee, said Swoope is worth the money. "I think Gray is doing phenomenally," Becker said. "He's constantly on the road, constantly on the phone, and is very responsive. He's better than any of his predecessors." Becker noted that Swoope's predecessor, John Adams, walked out the door with a reported severance check of at least $132,000 after Scott fired him in 2011.

The other two board members who voted in favor of Swoope's raise Tuesday were Bob McAdam, a Darden restaurants executive, and Howard Halle, an executive vice president of Wells Fargo bank.

Four groups that monitor Enterprise Florida's actions were highly critical of the decision. They include Integrity Florida, the Tea Party Network, Progress Florida and Americans for Prosperity. Speaking for all four, Integrity Florida's Dan Krassner said: "We object to any taxpayer-funded entity that rewards an underperforming staff with excessive bonuses. Floridians are depending on Enterprise Florida to generate jobs, not IOUs.  How is Enterprise Florida going to justify a Commerce Secretary’s exorbitant pay increase to the more than 600,000 Floridians who are out of work? We’re talking about a salary that would be eight times the pay of our Florida teachers. Swoope’s new contract also guarantees a six-figure golden parachute should a future governor want a new person for the job.  It was just two years ago that Enterprise Florida’s board was forced to pay $132,000 in severance to their last CEO."

-- Steve Bousquet