Florida's embattled business-recruitment agency Tuesday named its executive vice president as interim CEO --- a day after the top position was abruptly vacated by Chris Hart.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott and House leaders brought their feud over Enterprise Florida to the opening day of the 2017 legislative session.
The Enterprise Florida Executive Committee, at the recommendation of Vice Chairman Stan Connally, agreed to appoint Mike Grissom as interim CEO until a replacement can be found for Hart.
No time limit was put on the interim role or how the agency will move forward in seeking a new leader as its future remains in doubt due to the state House.
"I do think we need to let the dust settle a little bit from what's happened the last day-and-a-half," Connally said.
Grissom had been a senior director at the Florida Chamber of Commerce and executive director for the Republican Party of Florida before joining Enterprise Florida, where he serves as point person between the agency, the governor's office and the Legislature.
Hart, a former state lawmaker from Tampa hired by Enterprise Florida in November, surprised many in the Capitol on Monday, saying in a resignation letter that his decision was due to differences of opinion with Scott on the future of the public-private agency.
Hart didn't elaborate in the letter on the differences and the governor's office called it "odd" that Hart didn't share the same vision for the agency as Scott.
Connally said Hart had tried to reach him before sending out the letter, but that he had nothing to offer regarding Hart's decision beyond what was in Monday's letter.
"That's Chris' personal decision, and I won't and can't attempt to explain any of the details in this," Connally said. "We've all personally witnessed Chris' efforts over the last couple of months since he's been involved. I think those efforts were genuine."
Prior to the conference call, Enterprise Florida released a draft of a contract that would have paid Hart a base salary of $200,000 a year.
In his resignation letter, Hart noted he had yet to sign a contract.
The draft proposal showed Hart could have been eligible for a bonus up to 25 percent of his salary by helping to create 25,000 new jobs and securing from state lawmakers nearly $28.5 million of the $86 million Scott has requested in business-recruitment incentives.
Hart was hired Nov. 30, replacing Bill Johnson who left in June following the Legislature's rejection of a Scott request for $250 million in economic-incentive money for the public-private organization.
During his "State of the State" address that opened the 2017 legislative session on Tuesday, Scott reiterated his support for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm.
"I want to be very clear in acknowledging that both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida have made mistakes along with their many successes over the years," Scott said. "And I do not fault anyone for pointing out those mistakes. Any time we can eliminate government waste we should do it. But just like we would do in the business world, we have made changes at both agencies so the organizations can be more efficient and transparent.
"Any CEO or business owner will tell you that unfortunately mistakes are made sometimes," Scott continued. "But you don't just give up and shut down, and take your ball and go home. You figure out what the problem is and you fix it. Let's remember, we are talking about people's jobs and their ability to provide for their family."
The House is expected Thursday to take up measures that would abolish Enterprise Florida and other economic-development programs (HB 7005) and overhaul the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida (HB 9).
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, has repeatedly referred to economic incentives out of Enterprise Florida as "corporate welfare."
House Rules & Policy Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, told reporters after the opening session that the House hasn't altered its stance on incentives and alluded to Scott's oft-repeated story about running a doughnut shop.
"Imagine if the governor, while he had that famed doughnut shop that he started, imagine if his tax dollars from that doughnut shop would have gone to Dunkin' Donuts so that they could come across the street and compete against him?" Oliva said. "How difficult would that have been for that company?"