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Impasse lingers in search for Florida insurance commissioner

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday scheduled a face-to-face meeting with one of two finalists for the soon-to-be-vacant position of state insurance commissioner., as an impasse lingers only weeks before the start of the annual hurricane season. 

Scott planned a 1 p.m. meeting with state Rep. Bill Hager, a Delray Beach Republican and a former Iowa insurance commissioner. In addition, Scott's chief Cabinet aide said Scott also wants the other finalist, Jeffrey Bragg, a former federal terrorism risk insurance program official who lives in Palm Harbor, to be at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater must agree on a successor to Kevin McCarty, who has announced his resignation effective May 2. Scott supported Bragg at a March Cabinet meeting and Atwater supported Hager and neither official has shown any sign of movement.

At a public meeting of Cabinet aides at the state Capitol Wednesday, there was no sign that the impasse was about to end, which prompted this observation from Rob Johnson, Attorney General Pam Bondi's Cabinet aide: "Without the governor and the CFO being on the same page, we're not going anywhere."

Atwater scheduled telephone interviews with four other candidates this week: Raymond Blacklidge, Carla D'Andre, Chlora Lindley-Myers and James Wrynn.

Atwater's Cabinet aide, Robert Tornillo, said that the CFO would notify Scott's office by 5 p.m. Thursday if Atwater wants to consider any new finalists for the position.

Scott and the Cabinet raised the maximum salary for the insurance post to $200,000 a year to widen the pool of applicants, but most candidates fall short of the experience required by law. The always unpredictable hurricane season in Florida begins on June 1, about six weeks from now.

McCarty, who has been director of the Office of Insurance Regulation for the past 13 years  declined a request for an interview, but said through his spokesman that "the commissioner is willing to help ensure a smooth transition. At this point, we can't speculate on what that will be."

After next week, Scott and the Cabinet are not scheduled to meet again until May 10.