Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said Thursday he's lost confidence in one of the state's top financial regulators, someone that Gov. Rick Scott tried to get rid of years ago.
In a surprising letter, Patronis wrote to Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear to tell him that he is prepared to seek a change at the top of the agency.
"I no longer have confidence in your ability to lead the Office of Financial Regulation," Patronis wrote Breakspear. "Should there be a change in leadership, I am prepared to recommend an interim commissioner to ensure continuity of operations."
The letter comes nearly three years after Gov. Rick Scott first asked to get rid of Breakspear, a former banker appointed by Scott and the Cabinet in 2012.
But why Scott has wanted to get rid of him has been a mystery.
In 2015, Breakspear was one of three agency heads that Scott said he wanted to replace, without giving a reason.
Back then, Scott couldn't do it without a vote by the Cabinet, then made up of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and then-CFO Jeff Atwater.
But the other Cabinet members resisted, especially Atwater, who said he wouldn't support getting rid of Breakspear or the others without a formal process for evaluating each person.
Scott's effort to oust Breakspear came on the heels of one of his biggest controversies. In 2014, Scott went around Cabinet members' backs to get rid of then-Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner Gerald Bailey, triggering outrage and dozens of lawsuits by news outlets.
But Scott might now have the votes to get rid of Breakspear.
Last year, Atwater resigned, and Scott appointed an ally – Patronis – to replace him. Patronis is running for election this year against Democrat Jeremy Ring.
OFR licenses and regulates several major financial industries, including banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan companies.
He may not get that chance.
In the letter, Patronis mentioned "concerns over the lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication" between the office and the community served by the agency.
But Breakspear said in a statement that he's never talked with Patronis about the issues detailed by the CFO.
"I have since reached out to him and look forward to discussing his letter with him soon," Breakspear said in the statement. "I will reserve making further comment until such time as we have had this discussion."
Jon Moore, a spokesman in the CFO's office, did not provide specifics about the incidents to which Patronis alluded. But he said that Patronis intends to discuss his issues with Breakspear at the May 15 Cabinet meeting.
"The letter speaks for itself, and we are going to be highlighting the issues and any of the ongoing conversations in the sunshine," Moore said.
For their part, Cabinet officials were mum about Breakspear's future.
A spokesman for Scott declined to answer questions about why the governor, who is now running for Senate, has long wanted to oust Breakspear.
"We learned of the CFO's concerns from his letter today," spokesman McKinley Lewis said in a statement. "This will be discussed at the next meeting of the Florida Cabinet."
A spokesman for Bondi declined to answer questions about her stance on the commissioner.
"This matter will be discussed at an open, public meeting," spokesman Whitney Ray said.
And a spokeswoman for Putnam, who is running for governor, also declined to discuss Breakspear's future.
"The appropriate place for discussion on this matter is at an open and public meeting of the Governor and Cabinet," spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said.
If Breakspear resigns or is removed, some consumer advocates won't be upset.
"As a consumer protection advocate, he never reached out to our community, and he never seemed to have a concern for consumers," said Alice Vickers, head of the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection.
She said past commissioners, or their aides, used to reach out to consumer organizations for input.
"We were not particularly pleased with his tenure," Vickers said. "I'm happy he's gone."
This story has been updated.