Without Fanfare, Scott Boots Board Appointees
Pinellas County Clerk of Court Ken Burke’s dream appointment was to the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, St. Petersburg College.
When Jeb Bush finally won the Governor’s Mansion for Republicans, Burke hoped for and got a nod to serve on the board.
For 13 years, he helped make decisions for the school as a member of the governing panel. A paragraph of Burke’s biography on the Web is devoted to his place on the board.
On Friday, Burke got a call from Steve MacNamara, chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott, who had spent the weeks since the legislative session scouring a list of appointees that the Senate had failed to confirm to decide whom to keep. Burke was one of 10 purely gubernatorial appointees who didn’t make the list.
Scott announced Monday who would and wouldn’t be returned to their positions after what Senate leaders have described as nothing more than an oversight. But the word was still filtering out to some of the appointees as late as Tuesday, and some still questioned the circumstances of their ousters.
Officially, Scott said only that he made the decision based on a variety of factors.
“Some people decided they didn’t want to continue to serve,” he said. “And some, I made a decision that I would appoint somebody new.”
That gels with MacNamara’s explanation to Burke: “The governor was going in a different direction,” the clerk said Tuesday.
Burke countered by recalling what the governor had told him were among his priorities in a conversation last fall: limiting tenure at colleges and trying to keep higher education affordable. Burke noted that St. Petersburg College had essentially done both, including deciding not to raise tuition to the maximum allowed by the state.
“I said, ‘I thought I was carrying out the governor’s agenda,’” Burke said.
At that point, he said, the conversation ended. But Burke also suspects that something beyond the governor’s agenda played into his dismissal — specifically, the strong support he had from Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who reportedly infuriated MacNamara and Scott by refusing to meet with the governor about a prison privatization bill.
Jones’ son, Rod, was also removed from his position on the Board of Chiropractic Medicine — drawing suggestions that Rod Jones’ status was decided based on politics.
“You could probably draw that conclusion, couldn’t you?” Sen. Jones noted Tuesday.
Talking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Scott refused to get drawn into a discussion on what prompted the decisions on each of the individuals not reappointed.
Some were still not aware Tuesday that they were given the boot — Anthony Clemente, removed from the Board of Pilot Commissioners, was recently out of the country and hadn’t heard until a reporter called him. Clemente said he didn’t know why he was removed, though he noted that his attendance at the board meetings wasn’t perfect.
C.J. Fishman, who was on the Board of Trustees for the State College of Florida-Manatee, wasn’t certain of the reasons for being removed from his post.
“Obviously, there was something, or he would have reappointed me,” Fishman said.
Some appointees did leave voluntarily; according to The News-Press in Naples, Pamella Seay asked to leave her position on the Board of Trustees for Edison State College. And Earl Young of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council said he volunteered to be removed in disgust at the fact that the Senate didn’t confirm the appointments.
“I really resent being used as a political pawn in this game of appointing and reappointing,” he told the News Service.
Carlos Alfonso withdrew his name from consideration last week after realizing that Scott wasn’t going to reappoint him. Others who lost their posts include V. Upender Rao and Edwin Lytton of the Citrus County Hospital Board and John Ottino from the Florida Commission on Community Service.
Jones said he found the way the governor’s office handled the situation curious, especially given the low poll numbers the governor is currently drawing.
“He just has that many less people on his re-election team,” said Jones, who is leaving office due to term limits.
By Brandon Larrabee