Rick Scott – Page 2 – Florida Politics

More candidates emerge for OFR post

Twenty more applications have come in from candidates seeking to replace former top financial regulator Drew Breakspear, after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet deferred selection of a replacement last month.

Scott and the Cabinet agreed June 27 to name Pam Epting, the deputy commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation, as interim commissioner. They also agreed to continued accepting applications for commissioner, a job that has paid $135,158 a year. The latest deadline to apply was Sunday. Epting has not applied for the job.

Breakspear announced his resignation as commissioner this spring under pressure from state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. A more-permanent replacement is now expected to be named at the Aug. 14 Cabinet meeting.

Scott and the Cabinet interviewed five applicants — from 38 who initially applied — at the June meeting. Those interviewed were state Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican; banking lobbyist Scott Jenkins, who most recently was with Wells Fargo in Tallahassee; Linda Charity, a former official with the Office of Financial Regulation who twice served as the interim commissioner; William Jannace, a Bayside, N.Y., resident who has held positions at the American and New York stock exchanges and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which is a private, self-regulatory organization; and Kevin Rosen, a partner with Shutts & Bowen in West Palm Beach.

None of those interviewed was publicly dropped from consideration.

Among the recent applicants was Steve Petty, a former chief economist for Florida TaxWatch. Also applying recently was Monica Rutkowski, who is a principal with Mer/Risk & Regulatory Compliance Solutions in Tallahassee. She served as director of life and health product review for the Office of Insurance Regulation from 2005 to 2008 and before that was a legislative liaison for the Florida Department of Health.

Not all of the recent applicants may understand the position, which oversees a regulatory agency that employs about 360 people. One applicant from Tallahassee noted a high-school education and professional experience of a job at Steak ‘n Shake.

Jacksonville files to intervene in Terrance Freeman appointment challenge

On Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville filed a motion to intervene in a legal challenge of a Jacksonville City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown, charged that Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed last week, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The city contends that it has leeway to determine residency, and that the suit actually names Freeman as a defendant in his official capacity.

“However, the City contends the controlling law clearly establishes that City Councilmembers’ terms in office do not commence until they have sworn the required oath, among other things. As such, application of City laws, policies and procedures will be a critical component of this litigation,” the filing contends.

“While Plaintiff purports to bring her allegations against Councilmember Freeman in his individual capacity, by alleging that he assumed his mantle as an active member of the City Council immediately upon appointment, Plaintiff has actually sued Councilmember Freeman as an active, sitting member of the City Council in his official capacity,” the filing adds.

Jacksonville has, per the filing, an “important governmental interest in participating in discussions, analysis and arguments over the application of its own laws.”

Mike Miller launching his first TV ad in CD 7 race

State Rep. Mike Miller is taking to the airwaves in the hotly-contested Republican primary race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District with a television commercial featuring Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praising him.

The 30-second TV spot, “They Both Like Mike,” is essentially a mashup of some video highlights from two internet ads that Miller’s campaign released this spring. It features Scott talking about Miller at an event the governor held in Orlando earlier this year, and then Rubio talking about Miller at a Miller campaign fundraiser.

Rubio has endorsed Miller. Scott has not.

Miller, of Winter Park, faces two other Republicans, Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Orlando lawyer Vennia Francois in the Aug. 28 primary for CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

Neither of them nor the Democratic frontrunner, incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, have launched any TV commercials yet. She has a primary opponent in Chardo Richardson.

The commercial begins with a narrator declaring, “Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott are saying the same thing about conservative Mike Miller: I Like Mike.”

It then cuts to Scott saying, “I want to thank Mike Miller for all that he’s done. He’s making sure our taxes are low.”

It then moves to Rubio declaring, “That individual liberty is something we value and cherish.”

Scott continues, “That we have a great education system, and that people are safe.”

And Rubio finishes, “Mike will make a difference. And I look forward to working with him in making that difference.”

Text also notes him as “100 percent pro-life.”

“It is an exciting time for our campaign,” Miller’s campaign manager Alex Bolton stated in a news release. “Momentum is building with voters and this ad further illustrates the fact that Mike is the only conservative in this race. Voters should not be tricked by false claims about Mike,” continued Bolton. “Sen. Rubio and Gov. Scott know Mike will protect the Trump tax cuts and is 100 percent pro-life.”

Bill Nelson worries Russians will hack November election, have hacked Donald Trump

Sen. Bill Nelson is in for the fight of his political career against Gov. Rick Scott in November, but Scott for Florida isn’t his only concern.

On CNN Tuesday afternoon, the third-term Democrat expressed worries of Russian hacking playing a factor.

“It was a year and a half ago that unanimous report of the American intelligence community, that Russia interfered in the election,” Nelson said. “They are in the election records of 21 states, including my state.”

“And I have to worry in my election upcoming. Now I not only have to be concerned about my opponent,” Nelson added, “I have to be concerned about the Russians trying to influence the election against me.”

Later in the interview, Nelson joined what is now a chorus of Democrats suggesting that Moscow has something incriminating on President Donald Trump.

Nelson wondered “whatever it is that Putin has hanging over the head of Donald Trump.”

“Why does Donald Trump continue to defer, to curtsy, to bow, and will never say an unkind word toward Vladimir Putin? What is it going on with the U.S. President that he believes Putin instead of our own U.S. intelligence community?”

Gov. Scott has struggled to distance himself from the President in the wake of Trump’s kowtow to the Kremlin on Monday, preemptively asserting in Jacksonville that the Russians meddled in Florida elections.

“Putin is not our friend. Putin is not our ally. I don’t trust Putin. It clearly appears that Russia tried to meddle in our election,” Scott said.

“That’s why I’ve added more counter-terrorism experts at Secretary of State. Why I’ve made sure the federal money that came down, that could go to our Supervisors of Elections, got out as quickly as we can,” Scott said.

In response to that, Nelson noted Scott couldn’t name Trump, thus demonstrating political cowardice.

“Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself,” Nelson asserted.

Rick Scott fights financial disclosure lawsuit

A lawyer for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday asked a state appellate court to block a lawsuit seeking to force the governor to disclose more of his financial assets.

A Leon County circuit judge in February rejected Scott’s request to dismiss the case, which was filed by a Tallahassee attorney seeking to require Scott to provide more disclosure, including details of a blind trust. Scott is the richest governor in state history and had a December 2017 net worth of $232 million, with $215 million in the blind trust.

Scott asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to overturn the circuit judge’s decision and issue a “writ of prohibition,” blocking the lawsuit filed by Donald Hinkle, a lawyer and Democratic fundraiser.

Daniel Nordby, a lawyer for Scott, said compliance with the state’s financial-disclosure laws should be decided by the Florida Commission on Ethics and not by the circuit court. Hinkle has filed complaints with the ethics panel alleging Scott is not making a full disclosure of his financial assets, but the complaints have been dismissed.

“This court should issue a writ of prohibition because the circuit court is attempting to exercise jurisdiction that the law assigns to the Commission on Ethics,” Nordby told a three-member panel of the appellate court.

But Hinkle said there needs to be “mechanism” to appeal financial-disclosure decisions by the ethics commission.

“It was dismissed. We cannot appeal. That’s the end of the road,” Hinkle said. “Is there to be no opportunity to review the disclosures of any elected official, every constitutional officer in this state?”

Hinkle has alleged that Scott should be disclosing more of his blind-trust assets and assets in a revocable trust under First Lady Ann Scott, because the governor has knowledge or control over some of those assets. Under state law, public officials do not have to disclose assets owned by their spouses in annual financial-disclosure filings.

financial-disclosure report filed late last month showed Scott’s net worth rose $83 million in 2017, but the disclosure provided few details. The disclosure showed his blind trust rose from $130.5 million in 2016 to $215 million and produced $120 million in income last year.

The joint Tallahassee bureau of the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times reported the rise was related to an $825 million sale in 2017 of a Michigan-based plastics components company in which the Scott family had a major ownership interest.

Hinkle said more of those details need to be disclosed to the public under the state’s “Sunshine Amendment,” which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1976.

“I urge the court not to allow the Commission on Ethics to say we’re not considering this and that be the end of the road,” Hinkle said.

Nordby said the ethics commission reviewed Hinkle’s allegations “and concluded that the disclosures filed by the governor reflected, quote, compliance by the governor with the financial disclosure requirements of the Constitution and related statutes.”

“So the suggestion the ethics commission said we’re not going to look at it is simply belied by the record in this case,” he said.

The appellate court did not rule Tuesday. But regardless of its decision, the debate over Scott’s financial disclosures will continue later this month when he must file another report as part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Federal disclosure laws are broader than the Florida requirements, meaning Scott will have to provide more details on his finances.

Appellate Judge Ross Bilbrey asked whether the fact that Scott would be making those federal disclosures would cause a decision in the state litigation to be “moot.”

“I don’t think it’s moot at all,” Hinkle said. “This applies to every office-holder, not just the governor.”

Rick Scott calls Bill Nelson ‘a hypocrite’ over tax, health care for staff

Republican Gov. Rick Scott blasted his U.S. senate election opponent Bill Nelson on Tuesday, calling the Democratic U.S. senator a hypocrite for not paying payroll taxes or health care benefits for campaign staffers while railing against tax cuts and Republican opposition to health care programs in Washington.

Scott was responding to reports that Nelson’s campaign finance report details show that his campaign was not paying the matching Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for those laboring in his re-election campaign this year, and also was not offering any health care benefits.

“Here’s a guy who likes to raise our taxes all the time, Bill Nelson, and at the same time we got a report last week that for his campaign, he’s not even paying his payroll taxes. … And on top of that he likes all these big government health care mandates and he’s not even paying his own employees’ health care,” Scott said.

“He’s been a hypocrite,” Scott added.

Nelson’s campaign responded by insisting that Scott’s criticisms are based partly on out-of-date information, and partly on the fact that the Nelson campaign followed a very common start-up model: For the first few months the campaign was run and staffed significantly by consultants – independent contractors who get paid a contract amount and are on their own for dealing with taxes and benefits.

That has largely changed, starting July 1, as the Nelson campaign has gotten established, replacing many contractors with full-time employees. For them, the campaign does pay payroll taxes, and negotiates salaries to provide that the employees can be able to afford to purchase health insurance, Nelson’s campaign contended.

Scott said his campaign pays payroll taxes and provides health care benefits.

Scott’s campaign also uses contractors and consultants, but his staff argued it’s a different matter, because his are not used in lieu of full-time staff members.  The Scott for Florida team has more than 30 full-time employees. Full-time staffers are salaried with health insurance and the campaign pays payroll taxes.

Scott declined to speak to whether any of his businesses do not pay payroll taxes or health care benefits, saying they’re all in a blind trust.

He was in Orlando Tuesday, at Restaurant Supply World, a longtime supporter of his, to announce the endorsement from the National Federation of Independment Businesses of Florida, and the formation of his campaign’s Small Business Coalition, made up of more than 400 endorsing businesses spread across all 67 of Florida’s counties.

He argued Nelson is no friend of small business, and, worse, doesn’t pay the taxes and health care mandates he helped create for those small businesses.

“I think it’s absolutely hypocritical for Bill Nelson to sit there and vote for all these tax increases but he doesn’t want to pay his own taxes,” Scott said. “Can you imagine? He’s not paying his fair share of payroll taxes and he’s not providing his workers health care, but he wants to go raise all these taxes on us and have all these big government health care mandates.”

Rick Scott: ‘I disagree with the president’ on Vladimir Putin

In a campaign stop for his drive to become Florida’s next U.S. senator, Republican Gov. Rick Scott sought to put daylight between himself and President Donald Trump Tuesday, saying he disagreed with him on the positions he expressed Monday in Helsinki toward Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin.

Scott essentially dodged that question on Monday, condemning Putin but declining to address Trump’s political embrace of the dictator in Helsinki. For that, Scott’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, charged that Scott was refusing to stand up to his “pal” in the White House.

On Tuesday, at an event at Restaurant Supply World in Orlando to announced the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Florida, Scott stood up to Trump, though not quite by name.

“I completely disagree. I disagree with the president,” Scott replied to a press question. “I think Putin, he’s not to be trusted. I’m very skeptical of him. I don’t think he’s a friend; he’s a foe.

“I think that there is clear evidence that he tried to meddle in our election,” Scott added.

“I’ve worked worked to try to make sure our Florida elections are fair. I want everybody to vote but I don’t want there to be any fraud,” he continued. “That’s why I’ve added counter-terrorism people at [the Florida] Secretary of State [Office]. We quickly tried to get the money out the federal government sent down to help our superviosors of elections. But I disagree with the president yesterday.”

This was Nelson’s statement on Monday after Scott condemned Putin but said nothing about Trump:

“Today, Donald Trump sided with Putin over the people of the United States. And, once again, Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself.”

Bill Nelson says Rick Scott didn’t stand up to Donald Trump on Russia

In Jacksonville Monday to unveil his latest endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Gov. Rick Scott had to answer for President Donald Trump‘s performance in a summit meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Gov. Scott joined the chorus of critics, though he did not mention the President by name.

“Putin is not our friend. Putin is not our ally. I don’t trust Putin. It clearly appears that Russia tried to meddle in our election,” Scott said.

“That’s why I’ve added more counter-terrorism experts at Secretary of State. Why I’ve made sure the federal money that came down, that could go to our Supervisors of Elections, got out as quickly as we can,” Scott said.

“As a Senator,” Scott continued, “I’m not going to trust Putin. I’m never going to consider him an ally. And I’m going to be very skeptical of anything he says.”

Scott would not take the bait when asked if Trump’s posture of submission compromised the United States, repeating the above points in bullet form.

Sen. Bill Nelson noted the omission of criticism of Trump Monday evening: “Today, Donald Trump sided with Putin over the people of the United States. And, once again, Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself.”

Murkiness still surrounds precise timing of Terrance Freeman appointment to Council

Gov. Rick Scott, who collected an endorsement from the National Federation for Independent Businesses in Jacksonville Monday, addressed the controversial appointment of Terrance Freeman to the Jacksonville City Council.

Days after the appointment, questions about Freeman’s residency and when the appointment took effect continued to resonate.

Freeman was appointed on Tuesday by Gov. Scott, per Communications Director John Tupps.

“The press release announcing the appointment has an effective date of the appointment,” Tupps said.

(We have yet to get clarity, meanwhile, on whether the appointment date would have been effective at 12:00 A.M. July 10, or at 10:18 a.m, when the email was sent out.)

If the appointment is effective when sent out, that arguablycontravenes Jacksonville’s general counsel’s position. General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted last week that the threshold for eligibility to serve, per Gabriel, is when Freeman is sworn in.

The governor’s appointment is not the time marker, per Gabriel’s interpretation.

After this story ran, McKinley Lewis pushed back, saying that “we will make our arguments through the legal proceedings,” reiterating that the “appointment was lawful.”

The clarification is germane, given an active lawsuit questioning Freeman’s residency claim, which lists Scott and Freeman as co-defendants.

The lawsuit contends that when the email was sent, Freeman, who has a homestead exemption in Mandarin, was registered to vote there, and therefore was a resident of Mandarin even after the email officially confirmed leaks that Freeman’s appointment was imminent.

The rush to establish residency would be less material if Thursday were his effective date. With Tuesday as the effective date, lawyers will look for evidence that Freeman did not establish residency until after he had been appointed.

Earlier Monday, we asked Scott about the appointment and — crucially — when he believed the appointment was effective.

“My campaign team — my office will get back to you on that,” Scott said.

Reminded that he sent out the release Tuesday morning, Scott said he’d “get [his] office to get the exact time.”

Scott’s team did provide the exact time. Or at least date. But is it convenient for his political allies in Jacksonville?

Duval Dems move to remove Terrance Freeman from Jacksonville City Council

On Monday morning, as District 10 Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Terrance Freeman settled in for his first committee meeting after being named last week to the board, a group of Duval County Democrats is asking for emergency relief from Gov. Rick Scott‘s appointment.

If granted, that relief would stop Freeman from taking action as a councilman until legal proceedings wrapped regarding his residency.

The presser at the Duval County Courthouse was in support of a petition (16-2018-CA-004630-XXXX-MA) by Brenda Priestly Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown.

Priestly Jackson and other Democrats charge that Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed last week, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The Governor signaled his thoughts on this challenge even before Monday by opting to host a Senate campaign event in Freeman’s district on Monday afternoon. However, a united group of Democrats pushed back on what they believe was an illegitimate selection.

Duval Democratic Chairwoman Lisa King slammed Scott for having “chose to pick someone who lives 20 miles away” to represent 10. Vice Chair Daniel Henry blasted Freeman for “just show[ing] up, trying to rent two rooms” to establish residency. City Councilman Garrett Dennis bemoaned the “cronyism City Hall has been plagued with the last three years.” And State Sen. Audrey Gibson blasted a “tainted process” that led to a “blatantly wrong appointment,” noting that she could “write the script” on what Scott would say.

Priestly Jackson noted that of “over 50 applicants, approximately 15 to 20 lived in District 10.”

Both Priestly Jackson and her attorney, Leslie Jean Bart, noted that their preference would have been for a special election. However, Councilman Reggie Brown (the suspended indictee) maintains his innocence, and this put the fill-in slots in the Governor’s court.

The legal filing contends that at the time the Governor’s appointment became official, Freeman still homesteaded and was registered to vote in Mandarin. The city’s position is that Freeman was not a Councilman until his swearing-in ceremony, maintaining what could be called a Councilman-select status.

Democrats, while up in arms over what they see as the Lenny Curry administration stealing a seat from their party, nonetheless lack a credible, well-funded challenger to Curry on the 2019 ballot.

Help may not be on the way. When we asked about that lack of real challenge, we were told the presser was not the place for that question.

Meanwhile, Duval Republicans blasted the Democrats for objecting to Freeman, with Chair Karyn Morton suggesting that “We urge Democrat Party Chairman Lisa King to end her partisan attacks on Councilman Freeman and instead focus on keeping her own elected officials from becoming felons.”

King responded that the pushback isn’t about whether Freeman is Republican, but it’s about his “residency” — something attorney Jean-Bart isn’t prepared to say has been established even now, with Freeman leasing two rooms in the district.

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