Jimmy Patronis backs DEP Secretary interview amid Ron DeSantis-Nikki Fried feud

Florida Cabinet
DeSantis and Fried have sparred over Shawn Hamilton's appointment since June.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis says his office will recommend that the Cabinet consider Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton‘s appointment at its next meeting.

Disagreements over Hamilton’s recent appointment flared during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried contends Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis illegally appointed Hamilton to the position without a public interview or the Cabinet’s unanimous approval. Fried interrupted the Cabinet meeting, as she did in June, to raise concerns that the Secretary’s appointment is invalid.

Hamilton is a “good man,” Fried said before noting he would be the first African American DEP Secretary. But Fried, who is also running in the Democratic Primary to challenge DeSantis’ reelection, requested that his appointment and public interview be placed on the Cabinet’s next agenda.

“My issue is not with him. It is the procedures of this body,” Fried said.

“You don’t approve?” DeSantis asked twice.

“There’s no motion on it,” Fried responded, again requesting a public interview.

But the Governor moved on without addressing Fried’s concerns, which she expanded on after the meeting. DeSantis didn’t understand what was happening, she said.

“My other concern is that any action he takes at this point is not a lawful appointment. It’s not even a lawful interim appointment,” Fried told reporters. “So the actions that they take right now, any action, will they hold up?”

Florida Cabinet members — including the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Agriculture Commissioner — are elected statewide to four year terms. The current Cabinet agreed to abide by the previous Cabinet’s settlements, including the rules surrounding appointments to agencies overseen by the entire Cabinet. The Department of Environmental Protection is one of those.

Patronis, a Republican, appeared to side with Fried on the issue while criticizing how she handled it.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Patronis said he didn’t realize that the Cabinet wasn’t following that settlement. He plans to ask that Hamilton’s appointment be placed on the next agenda.

“That’s the appropriate way, to tee it up, talk it up, put it on the agenda,” Patronis said.

When asked whether he feared that not publicly interviewing Hamilton would set a precedent for agencies under the Cabinet, Patronis said that’s why he wants Cabinet aides to schedule the issue for the next meeting, currently scheduled for Oct. 26.

The CFO said he’s known Hamilton for years, and he noted his military service and his distinction as DEP’s first African American Secretary.

“If we could have voted on it today, I’d have been glad to vote yes,” Patronis said. “I think everybody felt like they were supportive of them, but again, the settlement is going to determine the timeline.”

In late August, DeSantis unilaterally named Hamilton DEP’s permanent Secretary. Hamilton had served as interim Secretary since June, when former Secretary Noah Valenstein departed after four years at the agency.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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