Dozens of state officials whose appointments need Senate approval will be considered Thursday by the Florida Senate, records show.
Among Gov. Rick Scott‘s top officials on the docket are Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll and Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
Swearingen replaced former Commissioner Gerry Bailey, forced out in a controversial move by Scott. The governor originally announced Bailey’s departure as voluntary at a Florida Cabinet meeting. Bailey soon said the governor’s staff had told him to “retire or resign.”
News organizations and open government advocates filed a lawsuit, since settled, alleging that Scott staff members violated the state’s open meetings law by acting as back-channel “conduits.” That led to a weeks-long round robin of finger-pointing and question-raising as to whether Scott had orchestrated an end-run.
At a Cabinet meeting last February in Tampa, Scott said, “I could have handled it better … The buck stops here.” Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi agreed to overhaul the way state agency heads are hired, evaluated and fired.
Other Scott appointees include Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek and Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Ken Lawson.
Also to be considered are Pete Antonacci, formerly Scott’s general counsel. He left the Governor’s Office when he became Scott’s choice to lead the South Florida Water Management District.
Another former member of Scott’s inner circle, Noah Valenstein, needs confirmation as head of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
He was environmental policy coordinator in 2014 when Scott took a meeting with a group of leading Florida scientists about climate change. At the end of that meeting, Scott didn’t say – and still has not said – whether he had been convinced by scientific evidence that rising sea levels and warming temperatures merit government action.
Jim Rosica (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee.