Ken Burke sounds off on not being re-appointed to board of trustees at St. Petersburg College

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Pinellas County Clerk of Court Ken Burke’s dream appointment was to the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, St. Petersburg College.

When Jeb Bush finally won the Governor’s Mansion for Republicans, Burke hoped for and got a nod to serve on the board.

For 13 years, he helped make decisions for the school as a member of the governing panel. A paragraph of Burke’s biography on the Web is devoted to his place on the board.

On Friday, Burke got a call from Steve MacNamara, chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott, who had spent the weeks since the legislative session scouring a list of appointees that the Senate had failed to confirm to decide whom to keep. Burke was one of 10 purely gubernatorial appointees who didn’t make the list.

Even though I broke the story about Burke not being re-appointed, the news was announced Monday who would and wouldn’t be returned to their positions after what Senate leaders have described as nothing more than an oversight. But the word was still filtering out to some of the appointees as late as Tuesday, and some still questioned the circumstances of their ousters.

Officially, Scott said only that he made the decision based on a variety of factors.

“Some people decided they didn’t want to continue to serve,” he said. “And some, I made a decision that I would appoint somebody new.”

That gels with MacNamara’s explanation to Burke: “The governor was going in a different direction,” the clerk said Tuesday.

Burke countered by recalling what the governor had told him were among his priorities in a conversation last fall: limiting tenure at colleges and trying to keep higher education affordable. Burke noted that St. Petersburg College had essentially done both, including deciding not to raise tuition to the maximum allowed by the state.

“I said, ‘I thought I was carrying out the governor’s agenda,'” Burke said.

At that point, he said, the conversation ended. But Burke also suspects that something beyond the governor’s agenda played into his dismissal — specifically, the strong support he had from Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who reportedly infuriated MacNamara and Scott by refusing to meet with the governor about a prison privatization bill.

Jones’ son, Rod, was also removed from his position on the Board of Chiropractic Medicine — drawing suggestions that Rod Jones’ status was decided based on politics.

“You could probably draw that conclusion, couldn’t you?” Sen. Jones noted Tuesday.

Talking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Scott refused to get drawn into a discussion on what prompted the decisions on each of the individuals not reappointed.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.