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Cabinet Awaits Scott Recommendations on Key Jobs

June 17, 2015 - 7:30pm

The state's top environmental and law-enforcement agencies may remain under interim leadership for a little longer.

Cabinet aides for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi said Wednesday their offices will review applicants for the environmental and law-enforcement jobs, but they expect Gov. Rick Scott to first offer a short list of candidates or to make recommendations.

Scott, who is the appointing official, and the Cabinet are expected next week to discuss the positions of Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretary and Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner.

"You can have (the final approval) at whatever meeting you want, but if you want to give the Cabinet members time to look at them and interview them, you would probably do it at the subsequent (meeting)," Rob Johnson, Cabinet affairs director for Bondi, said during an aides meeting Wednesday.

Monica Russell, Scott's director of Cabinet affairs, said after the meeting that the governor has yet to make a short list from the applicants for the $150,000-a-year positions. Each position has drawn about 60 applications. Unlike most state-agency heads who are under the governor, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Law Enforcement positions fall under Scott and the Cabinet.

Interim DEP Secretary Jon Steverson and Interim FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen are among the applicants. Many of the other applicants fall short of guidelines described for the jobs.

By taking time to review finalists, appointments might be made at an Aug. 5 Cabinet meeting. Scott and the Cabinet will not meet in July.

Steverson and Swearingen were forced to reapply for their jobs and given the interim tags when they were among 16 agency heads who failed to get Senate approval during the spring legislative session.

Both had been recommended by Scott for the jobs in December and received Cabinet backing in January.

However, since that time, a dust-up over the abrupt removal of Swearingen's predecessor, Gerald Bailey, has caused the Cabinet and Scott to enact new measures, including the application review and interview processes, for Cabinet agency hires.

Cabinet aides on Wednesday didn't discuss another high-profile agenda item for next week's meeting. That item involves the proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed by open-government advocates and media organizations. The open-government advocates contend Scott and the Cabinet violated the Sunshine Law by using staff members as "conduits" in discussions about the forced resignation last year of Bailey.

The settlement would, in part, require Scott and the Cabinet members to forward all government-related emails from their private accounts to public accounts and to pay about $55,000 in attorney fees.

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