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Jimmy Patronis looks to Ron DeSantis on financial regulator

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is deferring to Gov. Ron DeSantis about how to proceed with hiring a new top financial regulator.

Patronis this week rejected any insinuation he was in a compromised position in the pending hire, after earlier this year championing the hiring and firing of former Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin.

The series of events drew heavy attention, in part because Rubin was accused of sexual harassment.

DeSantis, Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will choose a successor to Rubin. But Patronis said Tuesday he is awaiting the lead of DeSantis on the issue.

DeSantis and the Cabinet this month narrowed a list of applicants to three finalists for the job, which oversees an agency of nearly 360 employees with an operating budget of about $41 million a year.

“If the Governor decides he wants to go from one of those three (finalists) at the next Cabinet meeting, that’s great,” Patronis said after appearing at an annual Associated Press pre-session gathering for reporters and editors. “If the governor wants to suggest a change at the next Cabinet meeting, then we’ll abide … and move forward with whatever way we need to do it.”

DeSantis and the Cabinet on Oct. 22 interviewed the finalistsRussell Weigel, a securities lawyer from Coral Gables; Mike Hogan, a Gainesville consultant who has worked as a bank chief financial officer; and David Weintraub, a Plantation attorney who represents investors in cases against broker dealers.

Rather than discuss the applicants after the interviews, DeSantis said he needed time to review the finalists.

In an email Wednesday, DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre said a meeting on the commissioner issue “is in the works.”

DeSantis and the Cabinet had been scheduled to meet next Tuesday, but the meeting was canceled without explanation. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Dec. 3.

On Tuesday, Patronis commended the work of the Office of Financial Regulation staff.

“Right now, I just need a commissioner that does their job,” Patronis said.

Rubin was brought in after the position opened with the resignation in May 2018 of Commissioner Drew Breakspear amid pressure from Patronis.

Patronis pointed to a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication” from Breakspear’s office. Breakspear disputed the claims.

Rubin was hired in February. Months later, Rubin refused to resign after an inspector general report outlined complaints from various office employees that bolstered a call by Patronis for Rubin to be fired.

Rubin served 57 days as the state’s top financial regulator before he was suspended by Patronis. He was fired by DeSantis and the Cabinet on July 25.

Rubin has disputed the accusations. In a lawsuit filed against Tallahassee lobbyist and Patronis ally Paul Mitchell, Rubin alleged he was a victim of “pay to play — or else” politics.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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