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Gov. Rick Scott at the start of session Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Legislature convened today for its annual 60-day session. (Phil Sears/For SaintPetersBlog)

Influence

Rick Scott not bothered by Jon Steverson’s departure

Gov. Rick Scott suggested he wasn’t bothered by one of his agency heads overseeing the flow of millions of dollars to a law firm that he’s now going to work for.

Scott spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Florida Cabinet meeting.

“We have people that come to work for the state and they work hard,” Scott told reporters. “And (then) they find opportunities. That’s just part of the process.”

Jon Steverson, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, quit last Friday, reportedly for a job at the Foley & Lardner law firm, according to a Scott spokesman. The firm still has not publicly confirmed the hire.

Foley & Lardner also is one of the firms representing the state in a nearly two-decades-old court fight with Georgia over river water use.

The dispute centers around upstream water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. They meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which empties into the Apalachicola Bay.

Steverson’s department is asking the Legislature for $13 million more to pay expected legal bills from the still-unresolved case. A joint committee is scheduled to take up the request later Tuesday.

But House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Monday night said his chamber won’t entertain the request without a detailed audit of how DEP officials spent legal money already appropriated.

The governor said he’s “appreciative of the people that are willing to come work with me … I know they work really hard. But when they have opportunities, they ought to go pursue them.”

Scott also defended the costs of the litigation, now approaching $100 million.

As The Associated Press has explained: “Florida blames rapid growth in metropolitan Atlanta and agriculture in south Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Georgia has argued that Florida didn’t prove its water use is to blame for the low flows and says a cap will damage the state’s economy.”

“The flow of water into our state is very important,” Scott said. “Now, we have to do everything we can to keep the cost of that issue as low as we can. But it’s important to make sure Florida gets the water it deserves.”

Added Scott on Steverson: “It’s hard to be an agency head. Sometimes the media isn’t very nice to them. One thing that surprises a lot of them is how much media attention they get.”

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor 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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