Scott, Cabinet Set New Agency Oversight Guidelines

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A trio of agency heads whose necks have been on the governor’s chopping block earned a couple of extra months stay on Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members approved new steps to review the work of agencies they jointly oversee, while also agreeing to extend the time for the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Office of Financial Regulation and the Department of Revenue to respond and offer input into proposed agency performance measures.

“They ought to have input in the scorecard that they’re being judged by,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who along with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi make up the Cabinet.

The extra time to respond gives the agencies until May or June before their leaders will stand before Scott and the Cabinet, rather than an April 14 Cabinet meeting as had recently been proposed.

Despite the continued pushback from Cabinet members, Scott has pursued replacing Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear and Department of Revenue executive director Marshall Stranburg.

Asked if he’d like to see a faster process, Scott instead praised Tuesday’s lengthy Cabinet discussion.

“I think we had a good conversation about a process,” Scott said after the meeting.

The new guidelines require Cabinet-level agencies to annually outline goals and showcase their value to taxpayers.

But while the agency heads could be replaced at any time through a vote of Scott and a required number of Cabinet members, the guidelines won’t force the agency heads to face annual automatic up or down votes.

Atwater said such a requirement could discourage future applicants for those positions.

The measures were drafted after Cabinet members voiced displeasure with the abrupt removal of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey in December. Bailey’s departure did not come up Tuesday.

Even with Scott’s expressed desire to install a new insurance commissioner, McCarty intends to continue working with the governor and the Cabinet and called the new procedures “reasonable.”

“I’ve been serving at the pleasure of the Cabinet for 12 years. Whether it’s an annual vote or at any particular Cabinet meeting, that’s part of the landscape, that’s part of the job,” McCarty said outside the Cabinet meeting. “I’ve been under this system for a while. I think it’s worked quite well.”

In addition to the new measures to oversee the Cabinet-level agencies, Scott and the Cabinet agreed that minutes of Cabinet aides’ meetings would be kept and that the governor and Cabinet would change their own annual training for public records and state Sunshine Laws.

Instead of watching a two-hour DVD, they agreed to receive a presentation from Pat Gleason, Bondi’s special counsel for open government, or a similar expert. The aides will also have to undergo similar training.

Last week, the Cabinet aides declined to discuss the Sunshine Law training and minutes issue due to a pending lawsuit dealing with Bailey ouster.

Media organizations and other plaintiffs allege that the Sunshine Law was violated because Scott and Cabinet members used aides as “conduits” to communicate about the Bailey ouster. Cabinet decisions are supposed to be made in public.

“The News Service of Florida’s JIM TURNER contributed to this report.”

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