Dr. Scott Rivkees, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ pick to be Florida’s next Surgeon General, did not submit an application for the job until two days after his nomination was announced Monday, and background checks have yet to be completed.
Rivkees has become a controversial pick because of surfacing allegations that he had been the target of sexual harassment complaints, and that he improperly filed financial disclosure information at the University of Florida, where he is employed; and because of a disputed background claim that he once spoke at a Nobel Prize symposium.
On Wednesday, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano told the News Service of Florida that the Senate will not take a confirmation vote on him this year, saying the allegations were “troubling, to say the least” and that the nomination needed more vetting than the Senate had time to do.
Various news organizations, including the News Service of Florida and Florida Politics, had sought Rivkees’ gubernatorial application as early as Monday. It was released late Wednesday, the day it apparently was first received by the Governor’s Office. The application was undated. The Governor’s Office indicated Rivkees had been vetted beforehand, “demonstrating his outstanding qualifications.”
The Governor’s Office on Wednesday also released an endorsement letter from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, who expressed her “tremendous respect and admiration for the contributions of Dr. Scott Rivkees to the Alachua County community,” and called him “a great choice.”
The Governor’s Office indicated that his application is not required until he starts work, which would be no earlier than in a couple of weeks. The office also said he still faces a background check and drug testing, which can be a lengthy process.
Such a background check likely is to explore some of the issues being raised in news reports since DeSantis’ announcement of Rivkees as his choice during a press conference in Sanford early Monday morning:
– That Rivkees, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and physician-in-chief at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, was the subject of a university sexual harassment investigation, essentially over inappropriate comments; and, separately, was found by a university auditor to have not properly filed financial-disclosure information.
Rivkees’ attorney, Robert Bauer, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday that Rivkees has acknowledged making inappropriate comments and has “moved on.”
– That various on-line bios at the University of Florida and his curriculum vitae include the claim that he spoke at the 42nd Nobel Symposium in 2010, a claim disputed by a spokesman for the The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, who said there wasn’t even such a thing as a 42nd Nobel Symposium.
Bauer told Florida Politics that Rivkees never personally claimed to have spoken at a Nobel symposia. The Governor’s Office provided documentation confirming Rivkees spoke at the “48th Frontiers in Medicine” mini symposia in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2010, and said the Nobel symposia claim was an error, which he caught and corrected after submitting his resume.
His formal employment application for the state of Florida makes reference to none of that. It spells out, in handwritten scrawl, his past employment at Massachusetts General Hospital, Indiana University, Yale University, and the University of Florida, where he became chair of the Department of Pediatrics in 2012; and his educational background. Under knowledge, skills, and abilities, it lists medical administration, clinical care, medical research, and education. In the background information he noted he has no felonies or first-degree misdemeanors.
On Monday, in announcing Rivkees as his pick, DeSantis laid out his professional, research and educational background, saying, “This is a very, very accomplished guy. … I think when you’re looking at public health problems, this is the type of guy who will make a real difference.”