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Drew Breakspear out as state’s chief financial regulator

Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear has resigned, another political casualty of the Rick Scott administration.

CFO Jimmy Patronis formally announced the departure, first reported by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon last night, on Friday.

“I appreciate Commissioner Breakspear’s years of service to the state,” Patronis said in a statement. “During his time as commissioner, he had an understanding of the financial needs of Floridians, and it is my hope his years of service will help ensure a smooth transition for Florida consumers and stakeholders. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Patronis – Gov. Scott’s friend and political ally – had recently told Breakspear he “no longer ha(d) confidence” in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, which acts as the state’s watchdog for the financial industry.

In a resignation letter published online by Dixon, Breakspear said he was resigning effective June 30, the last day of the state’s fiscal year, to “ensure a smooth transition.”

Beginning in 2015, Breakspear was one of three agency heads in Scott’s crosshairs to replace, including now-former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and former Department of Revenue executive director Marshall Stranburg. He quit in December 2015, followed by McCarty in January 2016.

With Breakspear’s resignation, the term-limited Scott – a Naples Republican now running for U.S. Senate – finally scored his trifecta.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the state of Florida, and I look forward to retirement,” Breakspear wrote.

Dixon reported last night that Breakspear “clashed with a host of powerful interests he oversees in the months leading up to … Patronis calling for his ouster, an unusually public move that shocked Florida’s political world.

Earlier this week, Patronis spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos Farrar outlined a number of issues to support Breakspear’s potential removal, from poor decision-making and a failure to follow emerging trends and technology to “a lack of responsiveness to our office and others.”

One of the issues dealt with a sexual-harassment allegation involving employees of the Office of Financial Regulation during an after-hours event. An agency deputy declined to take action on the allegation.

“Most of the motivating factors behind Patronis’ head-turning May 3 call for (Breakspear’s) resignation … have not been discussed publicly. Hundreds of pages of public records reviewed by POLITICO indicate Patronis’ push to fire Breakspear came amid fights with scorned companies and high-profile securities traders who lobbied Patronis after disagreements with Breakspear’s office.”

Breakspear answers to the state’s Financial Services Commission, made up of Patronis, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Under state law, the Commission could have fired Breakspear “by a majority vote consisting of at least three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side.”

Patronis, a Panama City Republican running for re-election this year, sent a letter to Breakspear last month, saying “over the last 10 months, I have developed concerns over the lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication from your office in its dealings with your customers and Florida’s financial services community.”

“My experiences with you and your office, and the feedback I have received from my staff, have validated these concerns. I believe this is due to a lack of leadership at the top.

“… I no longer have confidence in your ability to lead the Office of Financial Regulation.  I am extending you the courtesy of letting you know that I am prepared to discuss these issues during your assessment review at the Cabinet meeting on May 15, 2018. Should there be a change in leadership, I am prepared to recommend an interim commissioner to ensure continuity of operations.”

That meeting was later canceled, and the Breakspear matter was deferred to the next scheduled Cabinet meeting on June 13. Breakspear has served as Commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation since November 2012. A Naples resident with an MBA from Harvard, Breakspear has been in the $135,158-a-year position since 2012. A longtime executive in international banking and management consulting, he had been an executive vice president and general auditor at Boston-based State Street Corp. prior to taking the state job.

“I am proud of the work the Office of Financial Regulation has done to protect the people of Florida and regulate the financial services industry,” he said in a later statement. “To date, I have had no discussions with CFO Patronis concerning the issues raised in his letter. I have since reached out to him and look forward to discussing his letter with him soon.”

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

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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