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Scott, Atwater Mum on Insurance Commisioner Picks

April 18, 2016 - 7:30pm
Rick Scott and Jeff Atwater
Rick Scott and Jeff Atwater

After failing to reach agreement last month, it remained unclear Monday whether Gov. Rick Scott and state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater will be able to find common ground on the appointment of Florida's next insurance commissioner.

The state has attracted 16 additional candidates for the position, bringing to 71 the number of applicants. Cabinet aides are expected to discuss the latest recommendations from Scott and Atwater during a meeting Wednesday.

Scott and the full Cabinet are expected to again discuss the position, which could pay up to $200,000 a year, on April 26. The governor's office and Atwater's office provided little detail when asked about their stances Monday.

"The office continues to review the applicants in advance of the upcoming Cabinet meeting," Atwater spokeswoman Ashley Carr said in an email. "We're preparing to discuss moving forward steps during the scheduled Cabinet aides meeting this week."

Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, responded to similar inquiries by saying in an email that, "All interviews have been on the governor's public schedule."

Scott and Atwater must agree on a recommendation before Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi, the other members of the Cabinet, can vote on the replacement of outgoing Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty.

Scott last month rejected Atwater's proposal to offer the job to state Rep. Bill Hager, a Delray Beach Republican and former Iowa insurance commissioner. Scott backed Jeffrey Bragg, who served as executive director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Terrorism Risk Insurance Program from 2003 to 2014.

In addition to Bragg and Hager, the governor last month interviewed David Altmaier, a deputy commissioner with the Office of Insurance Regulation, for the job.

When asked if Atwater would continue to back Hager, Carr responded, "It's our understanding that both of the previously interviewed candidates are still in the game --- unless they've determined that they're no longer interested."

McCarty, who has served as insurance commissioner since 2003, announced in January that he would step down May 2.

Amy Bogner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said McCarty hasn't been formally asked to delay his departure date, but that he is willing to help in the transition to a new commissioner.

"He wants to make sure there is a smooth transition," Bogner said.

Without consensus from Scott and Atwater, the Cabinet agreed last month to keep active the initial 55 applications while giving others candidates until April 15 to apply for the job.

Those who have filed for the position since the last Cabinet meeting include James Wrynn, a former superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department; Steve Petty, chief economist for Florida TaxWatch; William Messer, president and CEO of Messer Insurance Group; Michael Bowens, who recently managed the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees after running the Alabama Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection; and Michael Conover, a vice president at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in Ohio.

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