How did they know?
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Florida State Board of Education had just begun discussing who would be the state's next education commissioner. They met in the Tampa Airport Marriott.
Less than 10 minutes later, the board unanimously picked Gerard Robinson, Virginia's secretary of education since 2010. Less than an hour later, Gov. Rick Scott welcomed Robinson to his office, issued a laudatory press release and photos showing the two men talking in the governor's Tallahassee office.
Was the fix in?
Roberto Martinez, State Board vice chairman, told the Gradebook he was surprised to learn that Robinson had traveled to Tallahassee before the vote with plans to meet Scott. He said he called Robinson, who did not attend Tuesday's board meeting, to congratulate him after the selection only to learn he was in the Capitol.
Martinez suggested asking the governor's office for more details about how the session with Scott transpired. We have yet to hear back from communications director Brian Burgess, whom we contacted via e-mail.
Martinez did acknowledge that Scott had called him Monday evening to commend Robinson. "The governor indicated that we had good quality candidates and he indicated that he thought Gerard Robinson would be a good choice for the state at this time," he said. He added that he did not promise his vote, but he did not have a problem with Robinson as commissioner.
"If the governor were to have called me to suggest someone who was unqualified, it would have carried slim influence with me," he said, adding that he did not speak with any other board members outside the board meeting room between the time Robinson ended his interview at about 6:30 p.m. Monday and when they reconvened at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Other board members have not yet responded to requests for comment.
State Board member Akshay Desai told the Gradebook that Scott called him Monday to make clear his preference for Robinson. The governor's support made a difference, Desai said, adding that he did not pledge his vote or talk with other board members prior to the vote.
"I said, 'Thanks for letting us know. We'll take it under advisement,'" Desai recalled.
Brian Burgess, the governor's communications director, told the Gradebook that the photo above was taken moments before its release. "Gerard was his top choice," Burgess said of Scott, "and he is thrilled that the board unanimously agreed."