Jimmy Patronis

New DOAH chief stamps Federalist brand on judge search

tumblr_p01k8iW2pT1tt2fafo1_1280John MacIver has been on the job for just a week, but the new chief judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings is already putting a Federalist Society spin on the joint.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and two Republican members of the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis — last week appointed MacIver to take over as head of DOAH, the go-to place for citizens and businesses to redress grievances against state agencies.

MacIver was admitted to The Florida Bar six years ago, and he’s the head of the local chapter of the Federalist Society, the conservative group that supports a “textualist” or “originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The best place where improvement can be made is in the culture of judicial philosophy at DOAH,” MacIver told the Cabinet last week, responding to a question posed by Moody.

MacIver pointed out that, since DeSantis, a Harvard Law School graduate, has taken office, the governor has appointed judges who “respect the separation of powers, respect the rule of law, follow the text of the law based on its common understanding.”

Florida businesses, citizens and legislators, who craft laws, need to have “some predictability in the law” and shouldn’t be “subject to the whim” of judges who have their own policy preferences, MacIver said.

MacIver’s Federalist approach — and his lack of experience — drew some backlash from Democrats, including Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, who voted against him, and several legislators.

MacIver, whose post requires Senate confirmation, meanwhile appears to have launched the DOAH makeover, as noted in a call-out to the Bar’s Administrative Law Section yesterday.

In an email to Brian Newman, the section’s chairman, MacIver wrote that he’s seeking “resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions,” and asked Newman to spread the word.

Minimum qualifications for ALJs is five-year membership in the Bar, MacIver noted.

“Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law,” he wrote (we added the emphasis).

Here’s the full text of his message to Newman:

Greetings Mr. Chair:

Please share with your membership my request for resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions. The official application is available through people first, but I am also accepting resumes and cover letters at Recruiting@Doah.state.fl.us. The minimum qualification to serve as an Administrative Law Judge is 5-years membership in the Florida Bar. Experience in administrative law and trial practice is highly valued. Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law. I expect the positions to be very competitive, but I’m asking for your help to discourage your members from self-screening their own applications. One of your members might have the unique combination of attributes that would make a perfect Administrative Law Judge—including the humility to think that they don’t—please encourage them to apply.

Respectfully yours,

John MacIver

Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge

Right now, it appears that there is one vacant ALJ position, but several other ALJs are nearing retirement age.

Dispatch from Dept. of We Used To Serve Together, starring Patronis and Kriseman

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis engaged in a tweetstorm earlier this week with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman over a lawsuit involving a city firefighter diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Patronis, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, took shots at Kriseman after hearing a report that the city had denied benefits for Lt. Jason Francis, who began his cancer treatments two months before a new state law that expanded cancer benefits for firefighters went into effect.

Patronis, who has more than 15,000 Twitter followers, accused the city of “splitting hairs with a first responder’s life,” adding in the tweet, “We must not allow these heroes to slip into a bureaucratic hole.”

Kriseman, a Democrat who has roughly 2,000 more Twitter followers than Patronis, replied: “Jimmy, happy to provide you with facts. Let me know.”

That prompted Patronis, a Republican, to up the ante by noting that he and Kriseman served in the state House together.

“I know your heart. You can change any policy you wish with a simple majority of your @StPeteFL Council. It’s time to step up to provide the necessary changes for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, with the addition of “#Dotherightthing.”

Kriseman shot back: “Not council purview. We’re doing the right thing. My comms director tweeted our statement and facts to you. Thanks.”

The new law, pushed by Patronis, provides benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer. It also helps firefighters pay their bills while undergoing cancer treatment by providing lump-sum payments of $25,000 upon diagnosis. The Florida League of Cities opposed the measure, raising questions about how local governments would pay for the expansion of benefits.

Francis’ problem, from the city of St. Petersburg’s view, is that it’s uncertain whether the law, which went into effect after the firefighter was diagnosed, is retroactive.

But that wasn’t good enough for Patronis.

“Mayor @Kriseman, sometimes the legislature has to pass policy that can’t seem to get resolved at the local government level. Legislative intent was to cover Firefighters with cancer, there is nothing prohibiting you create a local solution for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, drawing another volley from the obviously irked mayor.

“Classic Trump playbook from my GOP friends: tweet first, facts never. Like Lt. Francis & his legal team, we are seeking clarity on the statute either from the court or Tallahassee. Hoping the Legislature offers clarity so cities like mine can provide firefighters their due,” Kriseman snapped.

But it didn’t end there.

Patronis, in a post that included the hashtag “#leadership failure,” retorted that the city should just act.

That led Kriseman to post a release from the city, which said Francis has received more than 100 hours of donated annual leave from colleagues and city officials, and that the “city, as well as Lt. Francis’s own lawsuit, seek clarity from a court or from the Florida Legislature to clarify this benefit.”

— By Jim Turner.

Inquiring minds headed to Israel

Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to lead a four-day trip to Israel, with nearly 90 tag-alongs that include Cabinet members, top-tier lobbyists, state lawmakers and religious leaders.

The governor publicly announced the trip in April, but since then the planning of the trip and questions about it have largely been kept secret. But as the voyage gets closer, the drip-drop of details are putting a spotlight on some of what’s in store.

One lingering question is how much the trip will cost Florida taxpayers. DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre said about 80 members of the entourage are paying their own way.

At least one person footing their own bill said they’re staying at the Hilton in Tel Aviv, where they’ll be joined by a number of other members of the delegation who may be traveling on the taxpayer dime.

What’s the cost for one of those rooms? Accommodations range from $556 to $1,133 per night, according to the hotel’s website.

While questions about the cost and the substance of state officials’ meetings remain, two news organizations have announced they will be sending reporters to keep Floridians informed.

As of Thursday afternoon, two reporters have signed on to take the trip to Israel: Jeff Schweers, a state government reporter with the USA TODAY Network in Florida, and AG Gancarski, a reporter with Florida Politics.

“Coming next week (and assuming he gets past customs), intrepid reporter @AGGancarski will be reporting from @GovRonDeSantis and the Florida Cabinet’s historic trip to Jerusalem,” tweeted Peter Schorsch, the publisher of Florida Politics.

Schweers also got a last-minute OK from his company to make the trip.

By Ana Ceballos.

Scott and the U.S. Senate: If history’s the judge…

Need a hint about what Gov. Rick Scott may be up to on April 9?

After Scott tweeted Monday that a big announcement was coming April 9, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a two-time statewide appointee of the governor, tweeted out a “#TriviaTime” comment.

Answer: April 9, 2010 is when Scott filed his initial paperwork to run for the governor’s office. The same day, Scott also dumped $2 million of his own money into the contest. Another $71.2 million of his family money for the campaign would follow.

Scott’s announcement Monday that Brad Piepenbrink was replacing longtime Scott aide Jackie Schutz Zeckman as the governor’s chief of staff sent Capitol insiders into a spin.

Zeckman’s departure unleashed the latest round of speculation (might she join his “Let’s Get to Work” political organization?) about whether Scott’s entrée into the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is imminent in what, if it happens, would be one of Florida’s Worst-kept Political Secrets of All Time.

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

Yes, he did! Patronis slides into Cabinet tradition (with pic)

DViJcFUVoAAjAV4Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis took Attorney General Pam Bondi up on her “double dog dare” about going down the Big Slide on the opening day of the Florida State Fair.

While Patronis appears to have left his potato sack behind, Gov. Rick Scott seems to have once again avoided rollicking good time.

“The Florida State Fair slide is one of the best parts of my official duties,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tweeted following today’s Cabinet meeting in Tampa.

On Wednesday, Bondi teased Patronis — who attended his first fair as a Cabinet member Thursday — about the annual trip down the slide.

Patronis poked back, with a reference to doggie-loving Bondi’s adoption recruitment efforts.

 — By Jim Turner.

Will he or won’t he? Patronis and the Cabinet slide

Commissioner-Slide_bannerThere is a high probability Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis won’t miss the chance for a wacky good time with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi if they go on the Giant Slide on Thursday.

This will be Patronis’ first appearance as a member of the Cabinet when the state officials hold a largely ceremonial meeting in Tampa timed with the kick-off of the  Florida State Fair.

Typically, members of the Cabinet take to the slide if the weather is good. Putnam has done the slide in his cowboy boots, while Bondi has kept her heels on, and Gov. Rick Scott isn’t known for partaking in the plunge. No news yet on what kicks Patronis might sport, if he joins in the fun.

A “flip the switch” event kicks off the fair at 6:15 a.m., then Putnam — a Republican who’s running for governor — will host a “Fresh From Florida” breakfast prior to an agenda-lite Cabinet meeting in the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center Pavilion, which starts at 9 a.m.

By Jim Turner.

Will Florida’s new CFO put down the seating chart?

patronis Florida’s next chief financial officer may not be seating the next table of four.

An emotional Jimmy Patronis — a former state lawmaker from Panama City who resigned his post on the Public Service Commission Gov. Rick Scott tapped him for the $128,972-a-year spot as Florida’s banker-in-chief — said Monday his phone has blown up as news of the appointment spread.

“I’ve gotten probably about 200 text messages over the last 24 hours,” Patronis said after Scott formally announced the appointment at Patronis’s Captain Anderson‘s Restaurant and Waterfront Market in Panama City. “And probably the most popular one is, ‘Does that mean I can’t contact you anymore to get a table at the restaurant?’ ”

Patronis, who will be sworn in Friday to replace Jeff Atwater, was an early political supporter of Scott’s in 2010.

That fact wasn’t missed by the Florida Democratic Party, which quickly blasted Scott’s selection of Patronis to replace Atwater, who stepped down to take a post at Florida Atlantic University, as “cronyism.”

Scott has used the dockside restaurant for a number of political events, including one of his “work days” back in 2011, when the governor was trying to personalize the issue of unemployment.

“He made me work really hard,” Scott said of Patronis on Monday. “He didn’t let me off the hook. He made sure I sold a dessert to everyone that was here.”

The Patronis family has deep ties in Panama City, where they have owned the popular Captain Anderson’s for five decades. The name is affixed throughout the community, including an elementary school on land donated by the family down the road from the restaurant.

Posted by Jim Turner