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Scott Asks Some Agency Heads to Continues For Now

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 20, 2010 --

Several state agency heads have been asked to remain in their posts as the Scott administration comes into office for at least a couple months.

The transition team for Gov.-elect Rick Scott hasn’t yet named any agency directors or secretaries with the new administration set to take office Jan. 4.

The Scott transition office sent a letter to several Crist administration agency heads late last week asking if they’d be willing to “remain in your appointed position for an additional period of 30-60 days.”

Agency officials confirmed to the News Service on Monday that among those being asked to stay were Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil, Environmental Protection Secretary Mimi Drew, Agency for Workforce Innovation Director Cynthia Lorenzo and Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Jim DeBeaugrine.

Spokespeople for Sheldon, Drew, Lorenzo and DeBeaugrine said that they would accept Scott’s request. Members of some top management staff in the agencies will also remain with the agency heads.

A spokeswoman for McNeil said he was on leave and hadn’t said yet whether he’d remain, but pointed out that McNeil said in his resignation letter to Crist that he would like to remain at the agency.

Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte-Ros wasn’t among those asked to remain, Department of Health spokesman Rob Hayes confirmed. Hayes declined to comment further, and it wasn’t clear Monday how many agency heads were asked to stay on and how many weren’t.

Officials with the Scott transition didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday from the News Service.

The St. Petersburg Times-Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported Monday on some agency heads who either weren’t asked to remain or who had declined.

The Times-Herald reported that the Scott transition had accepted the resignations of Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham; Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman; Lottery Secretary Leo DiBenigno and Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South.

Pelham has been at odds with Republican lawmakers over growth management rules, while Peterman is under investigation by the state Ethics Commission, which found probable cause to believe he used taxpayer money to fly back and forth between his office in Tallahassee and home in St. Petersburg.

South has also been at odds with lawmakers, who have feuded with the agency over legislators’ efforts to get a concise list of state-owned property from DMS. Senate President Mike Haridopolos also recently called for South to resign, saying she “weakened the public’s trust,” in the agency’s management of a contract to build a new 1st District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee.

Several agency secretaries indicated they’d like to remain in the Scott administration. All of them had to submit resignations to Crist – but in their resignation letters many of them said they’d like to work for Scott. Some indicated they’d like to have another term heading the agency, others offered to stay until Scott gets a new team settled, or key issues get resolved.

Among those, for example, was DEP’s Drew.

“Given the technical complexity of this agency, and the challenges we are facing, I would be happy to stay through transition and possibly through the legislative session to help the new administration make a smooth transition,” Drew wrote. “There are numerous lawsuits related to Everglades issues, discussions with Georgia and Alabama related to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River systems (ACF), ongoing negotiations with EPA and stakeholders about the recently promulgated federal numeric nutrient criteria for Florida, and several other major issues which would benefit from my history with and knowledge of DEP as well as other agencies and entities.”

Drew is set to retire in July, a spokesman said.


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