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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist PSC appointee no longer working at sheriff department



Rick Cabana LoungeGov. Charlie Crist's recent appointee to the Public Service Commission, Steve Stevens,  has this discrepancy on his employment application for the job:  He lists on his resume his present employer as the Escambia County Office of Sheriff as "March 2001-present.''

As his "present or last employer" he named: Escambia Sheriff's and included the dates 3/2001 to 12/2008. The Herald/Times missed that discrepancy when we first reported about Stevens, and the governor's office apparently missed this too when it sent out its press release.

According to his application, the PSC $130,000-a-year job at will be a job cut for Stevens, who reports making $173,184 at the sheriff's department. Stevens' disclosure statement also notes that he has a 50 percent passive ownership in Austin and Stevens Inc., a bar and package story in Pensacola. He is also has a 50 percent passive ownership in Ben Bartows Bar, home of Rick's Cabana Lounge, pictured above. But incorporation papers show he is the manager, something he did not disclose on his application.

During the interviews with the Public Service Nominating Council none of it seemed to matter. The10 members listened to his discuss his qualifications for five minutes, then only Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera asked his question about salaries and the interview was done.

Here are excerpts from that Sept. 1 nominating council interview:

"When I was in the budget office of Escambia County, we oversee multiple budgets it was a challenge but a lot of fun,'' he told the PSC Nominating Council during his Sept. 1 interview.

He began his career with a large, regional accounting firm where he was an auditor. "I learned a lot about transactions backwards and forwards." He left the accounting firm and ran the Escambia County budget office for seven years, he said. "I understand the challenges in state government, in trying to handle a budget deficit and making things fit. It is certainly a challenge."

When the new sheriff was elected in 2001, he was asked to be his chief financial officer and moved there. (He does not mention that when that sheriff left office, so did Stevens.) He managed a budget of $350 million for the county and one for $80 million with the sheriff.

"When I was in the budget office of Escambia County, we oversee multiple budgets it was a challenge but a lot of fun,'' he said. When he was in the sheriff's office, “It was a lot of fun. Had a good time,'' he said.

He managed FEMA grants after Hurricanes Erin, Opal and Ivan. "I could not have done this without a finance degree,'' he said.  

His qualifications for the PSC, he said: “Being able to work with staff, understanding the challenges there, understanding the technical challenges. I understand the review process. I always do my homework and making sure you have the background to make the decision.''

Lopez Cantera asked if he would require utility companies to publicly disclose salaries, he answered: "Working in government, our salaires were always publicized,'' Stevens said. "I like the sunshine law. I think it’s a great law. My profession deals with integrity and ethics above all and are beyond reproach. When it comes to salaries...there would have to be a very compelling public purpose for the commission to require that.''

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:20pm]


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