Monday’s Cabinet meeting was nothing like any of the other meetings. It was dramatic, intense, awkward, and anticlimactic — all at the same time.
After four interviews by candidates for the post of Insurance Commissioner, Gov. Rick Scott read from a prepared statement and moved to appoint Jeffrey Bragg—a man whose legal eligibility for the job continues to be murky, and who is reported to have misled investors in a private sector position.
The silence was deafening.
When CFO Jeff Atwater tried to initiate a conversation about the qualities each Cabinet member is looking for in an Insurance Commissioner, the governor deadpanned. Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam did their best to be circumspect.
Bondi, who previously endorsed Rep. Bill Hager, made some comments about her deference to the governor and CFO. Putnam suggested that this issue should come in for a landing soon and that he hoped to settle on someone with both private and public sector experience.
The CFO said that he thought that both Hager, a former Iowa Insurance Commissioner, and Belinda Miller, Chief of Staff at the Office of Insurance Regulation, were well qualified for the position.
After refusing to engage in conversation, the governor then scheduled a Friday meeting — a conference call — for this issue to be re-examined. Minutes later, a three-page legal memo from the governor’s new general counsel was issued, lambasting Commissioner Kevin McCarty’s offer to remain for 45 days after his successor is appointed to “facilitate a smooth transition as the 2016 hurricane season approaches.”
Smooth transition? Hurricane preparedness? Sounds pretty gracious. But instead of shaking McCarty’s hand, the governor threw a punch — in the form of a carefully crafted memo.
The memo itself restates the law several times but then dismisses that same law.
For example, while it correctly points out that the Cabinet “shall appoint or remove each director by a majority vote consisting of three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side,” it then goes on to explain that “McCarty cannot unilaterally extend his appointment after he, the Governor, and the Cabinet all mutually agreed that his last day would be on May 2nd.”
I’m no lawyer, but I don’t recall McCarty’s letter of resignation being mutual, nor do I recall him being removed.
The memo then cites opinions where appointees were able to rescind their resignations before the effective date, but saying that those were “completely inapplicable in this instance.” Huh?
This leads me to again wonder, why would anyone want to be Florida’s Insurance Commissioner?
Lauded by industry representatives and consumer advocates alike, McCarty has been an effective, reliable, and steady hand at the wheel of a very important office. But when he offers to ensure that Florida is once again successfully guided through a hurricane season in the event of an impasse over the next leader, he gets rebuffed.
So, I’ll just come out and say what the rest of us are thinking: thank you, Commissioner McCarty. Something tells me you don’t hear that enough.
Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.