Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday approved new procedures for job evaluations of Cabinet-level agency heads, including a requirement that the "reaffirmation or removal" of those directors must take place by a vote at a public meeting.
The absence of a public vote on the removal of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey has prompted an historic self-critique of Cabinet operations. It also triggered a lawsuit by most Florida news outlets alleging that the officials broke the law in the way Bailey was removed as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The four officials approved broad new guidelines for establishing missions for the 10 agencies that report to them. The subtext of the discussion -- though never mentioned publicly -- is Scott's publicly stated desire to fire three high-ranking state officials, but Cabinet members want to put the brakes on Scott's intention to dismiss the three.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who has equal power with Scott to hire and fire the state insurance commissioner, gave Kevin McCarty another strong endorsement Tuesday to keep the position he has held since 2003.
"I think Kevin's doing a good job. I do," Atwater told reporters after the meeting.
Tuesday's meeting was long on legalese and wordsmithing about procedures, with Attorney General Pam Bondi providing most of the legal advice. At one point, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joked: "I'm getting my law degree here."
Putnam also stressed the necessity of "getting the agencies' input" in the development of new performance measures. "They're the ones who have to live with it every day," Putnam said. "They ought to have input in the scorecard that they're being judged by."
The four Republican statewide officials also voted to schedule a public meeting with their Cabinet aides for a two-hour presentation on Florida's Sunshine Law and public records laws. The session will be led by Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason. They also voted to require that written minutes be kept, transcribed and posted online at all future meeting of Cabinet aides.
Scott and the Cabinet members are defendants in a pending lawsuit filed by most major Florida news outlets, alleging that the Sunshine Law was broken in the orchestrated ouster of Bailey.