Looks like Jeff Atwater will be alone in Friday’s Cabinet meeting

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Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are supposed to meet Friday to pick the state’s new Insurance Commissioner.

But except for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, none of them will actually be there.

The rest, including Scott, will be phoning it in.

Friday’s get-together (or lack thereof) is a last-minute emergency meeting, called by the governor when there was no agreement on any candidate at a Tuesday meeting.

Kevin McCarty, the current commissioner, turned in his resignation in January.

Now, three more applicants will be at the lectern to answer questions for the one of the most important jobs in state government: Florida’s top insurance regulator. And time is of the essence because hurricane season starts June 1.

As of Thursday night, only Atwater will be there to assess them in person. He had other plans but changed them, his spokeswoman said.

“We’ve been trying to work out the CFO’s schedule because tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting is important to him,” Ashley Carr said. “He had a previously scheduled trip to Miami-Dade County, but we’ve been able to arrange for a suitable replacement representative.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi will be “on previously scheduled personal travel out of state,” said spokesman Whitney Ray, but “will join via phone.”

Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam won’t be there in person, either. He was “previously scheduled to deliver remarks on water at an event in southwest Florida,” press secretary Aaron Keller said.

Scott’s whereabouts were unclear. A request for his Friday schedule was not responded to as of Thursday evening. He departs Sunday for his California jobs mission.

So far, Scott and Atwater have been at odds over who to hire as a replacement. Under state law, they must first agree on a new hire. Insurance regulation falls under the CFO’s office.

As part of that spat, Scott’s top lawyer this week argued McCarty, who offered to stay past his May 2 departure date, must leave after next Monday.

Any extension would have to be approved by the governor and the three elected members of the Cabinet, general counsel William Spicola said.

Atwater’s own general counsel disputes that. McCarty has been head of the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) since its formation in 2003.

The CFO said in a statement that he was “disappointed” that Scott’s office was so eager to see McCarty leave that they would “quibble” over the departure date.

Representatives for Bondi and Putnam also were asked Thursday whether their legal offices had produced their own opinions as to McCarty’s departure.

Neither had, according to their spokesmen.

An agenda posted Thursday showed that three applicants were set to be publicly interviewed Friday:

  • Eric Johnson, OIR’s top life and health actuary;
  • Rich Robleto, currently a deputy commissioner at OIR, and
  • David Altmaier, another OIR deputy commissioner.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.