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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Is Steve MacNamara the next chief of staff for Gov. Scott?

macnamara.jpgThe Buzz is that Stephen MacNamara, the chief of staff/general counsel in Senate President Mike Haridopolos' office, is the top choice to become Gov. Rick Scott's new chief of staff.

There is one problem at the moment: Scott already has a chief of staff.

But rumors of Mike Prendergast's exit started almost the day he was appointed to the top job in Scott's office.

A career military man, Prendergast had little experience in state government and his only foray into politics was a failed bid for U.S. House last year. Scott's poor poll numbers are helping fuel rumors. And Scott's top policy adviser, Mary Anne Carter, has been the chief architect on nearly all matters of policy and budget while Prendergast oversees the lower profile (at least so far) emergency management issues.

Watch for Prendergast to land a state agency job.

The eyeing of MacNamara could also signal that Enu Mainigi has not left the governor's orbit. Mainigi, Scott's corporate attorney, directed Scott's turbulent transition from candidate to governor. But she has returned to her Washington D.C. firm and Scott said her official duties were "pretty much finished" on March 31. Mainigi is likely MacNamara's point of contact. The pair were described as "tight" by a former transition official and the two traded several e-mails during the transition, discussing potential policies and MacNamara making recommendations for appointments.

MacNamara, on his third unpaid leave from a six-figure salary at Florida State University, earns $175,000 per year in his current Senate post. Prendergast makes $150,000 annually.

Scott's office wouldn't comment and neither Prendergast nor Mainigi would return a phone call.

Asked if he was interested in the job, MacNamara didn't say no. He doubted the intelligence of the question, called a reporter an "idiot" and complained the capital press corps has been unfair to Haridopolos. He later apologized, blaming it on a bad day.

"I wish I could get you guys to fetch any stick I threw," MacNamara said.

The job for MacNamara would give him a rare trifecta: In addition to being Haridopolos' chief, MacNamara was also chief of staff for then-House Speaker John Thrasher. (The state Ethics Commission found probable cause that MacNamara illegally lobbied for a cement company while working for Thrasher, but the complaint was eventually dismissed.)

It would also mean a rare political insider in a Scott administration that prides itself on its outsider status. MacNamara ran the Department of Business and Professional Regulation under then-Gov. Bob Martinez and has lobbied for clients like the JP Morgan Securities, Anheuser Busch, Florida Association of Health Plans and KidsNet Inc., which sells internet parental control software.

MacNamara is on extended leave from his tenured job as an FSU professor, one of several posts at the university he's won with support from Thrasher and FSU law professor Sandy D'Alemberte.

D'Aemberte continued to praise MacNamara today, saying MacNamara advised him on legislative strategy on how to win compensation for a wrongfully convinced Broward County man. D'Alemberte credits MacNamara with securing state funds this year for an innocence commission and for helping minority students do well in law school.

"He's smart as hell - a really smart guy," D'Alemberte said. "He really is quite religious, motivated by his Catholic faith."

While working for Haridopolos, MacNamara oversaw the dismissal of several Senate staff veterans while steering a $90,000 consulting contract to ex-convict, Charles LeCroy, to advise the senate on pension changes. When Haridopolos learned about the deal and that LeCroy was at the heart of an Alabama bribery scandal, he fired LeCroy.

MacNamara also caused Haridopolos another embarrassment by striking state Sen. Paula Dockery's ethics legislation from a Senate committee agenda, contradicting Haridopolos' claim that all committee chairmen would set their own agenda. The flap also drew attention to Haridopolos' own ethics problems regarding his trouble filling out financial disclosure forms accurately.

Toward the end of session, MacNamara was also a key player in fighting against a pet priority of Scott's: Stopping doctors from dispensing drugs in-house to crackdown on pill mills. Ultimately, Scott's office, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Attorney General Pam Bondi had to pressure Haridopolos to move the legislation.

"Scott's lucky if Steve gets the job," D'Alemberte said, before laughing. "But what an awful job for Steve."

--Marc Caputo contributed to this report

[Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 1:07pm]

    

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