Instead, they decided to keep the application period open through mid-July. Thirty-four people already had applied.
Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held a conference call and interviewed their top five applicants to replace outgoing OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear.
Meantime, Pam Epting will become interim commissioner at the post’s $135,000 salary. Breakspear’s official last day is June 30.
He recently announced he was stepping down after Patronis pressured him to leave the position. Patronis’ office had said he received numerous calls for a new top regulator from mortgage and security industry leaders who had clashed with the agency.
Any permanent replacement will face a new governor and Cabinet in 2019, as all four positions are up for election in November.
After interviewing the five – including state GOP state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville – Scott balked, saying he wanted more time to make a decision. Scott and the others also agreed to accept more applications and decide at the next Cabinet meeting on Aug. 14.
Fant, who ran his family’s Jacksonville bank before it was shut down, dropped out of the race for attorney general to apply for OFR Commissioner.
Fant had been on Scott’s side last year, when he voted against a bill backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that sought to abolish Scott’s favored Enterprise Florida economic development organization.
But during his interview Patronis raised the issue of the failure of Fant’s family-run bank amid the recession.
Fant said “community banks” like his family’s were hurt by the federal government’s bailout, which he said benefited only the big banks and left smaller banks in the dust: “Capital wasn’t available to the small companies.”
They were “terrible times for us as Floridians, as Americans,” Fant said, but added he would apply lessons from that experience “to the future.”
The OFR reports to the Financial Services Commission, which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet. State law says they can hire or fire the OFR’s head “by a majority vote consisting of at least three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side.”
Ed. Note — A live-reporting Twitter thread with details from the interviews during Wednesday’s meeting is here.
Florida Politics Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski, Gainesville correspondent Drew Wilson, and The News Service of Florida (content republished with permission) contributed to this post.