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Ex-lawmakers turned down for PSC post

Former lawmakers and a utility regulator seeking to move into a seat with a longer term failed to make a list of finalists Thursday for an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission.

A state nominating council quickly whittled a list of 17 applicants to four finalists after interviews that included candidates giving short introductions and briefly fielding questions.

Gov. Rick Scott will use the recommendations as he makes an appointment to the five-member Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co.

Scott will have 30 days to make a pick. The finalists for the $132,000-a-year job are:

Baldwyn English, who served as chief adviser to former Public Service Commission member Ronald Brise.

Brandon J. Patty, who served as an aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and worked for campaigns of presidential candidate Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

— State Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James.

Andrew G. Fay, a chief deputy in the state attorney general’s office.

Scott in September named former state Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican, to the Public Service Commission seat. Workman was supposed to start the job this month but withdrew after Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, accused him of sexual harassment. Benacquisto said she would not hold a confirmation hearing for Workman, who said he did not recall any impropriety.

Among the applicants who did not make the list of finalists Thursday were former Rep. Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican; former Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican; former Rep. Ken Littlefield, a Wesley Chapel Republican; and former Rep. Janet Adkins, a Fernandina Beach Republican. Also failing to make the list was Pasco County Commissioner JohnJackMariano, whose daughter is Rep. Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat who serves on the nominating council, called the decisions “really tough.”

“There are people here I know and admire and I’ll be voting against,” she said.

Current Public Service Commission member Gary Clark, who was seeking to switch seats and have a longer term, just missed the cut. His application was an issue for nominating-council member Christopher Maier of Orlando.

“What I’m concerned about is if we allow that to happen, the precedent that it could set for all the commissioners,” Maier said. “If a commissioner is coming up on a year or two left and as a seat comes open, they may apply for that to lock in four more years.”

Maier said he had staff confirm that no other commissioners have ever applied for other seats during their terms.

Also, Maier noted that if Clark changed seats, the council would have to meet again in 60 days to consider applications for another seat.

Clark was appointed in September to complete the term of Jimmy Patronis, who had been named Florida chief financial officer. Clark’s term expires Jan. 1, 2019.

The seat left open by Workman expires Jan. 1, 2022. Workman was expected to replace Brise, who was not reappointed after eight years on the commission.

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