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Crist appointee quits after criticism

TALLAHASSEE — The wife of Gov. Charlie Crist's top lawyer Friday resigned as chairwoman of a panel that handles labor issues after her appointment was criticized because she lacked any background in the field.

Sara Gonzalez's resignation came two days after Crist defended his decision to appoint her. Gonzalez, 34, submitted a letter withdrawing her application for the post that pays nearly $100,000 and hears complaints from state and local government workers.

"I was very much looking forward to doing this and to leading the commission. I felt like it was a privilege and an honor, and I took that very seriously," Gonzalez told the Associated Press. "My interest was for the people of Florida."

Gonzalez's appointment as chairwoman of the Public Employee Relations Commission raised questions because of her background as a dermatologist's assistant and the qualifications section of her application was virtually blank.

In the past, the position has been held by a lawyer, and the two unsuccessful applicants included a labor lawyer and a person with 20 years of experience working with unions. Gonzalez has an undergraduate degree in biology and a master's in physician assistant studies.

"I have looked forward to public service and working on the commission," she wrote in her resignation letter to Crist. "However, given the response to my appointment, I feel that it is best for the commission that someone else serve as chair."

Critics of the appointment, including Commissioner Charlie Kossuth, said that because she is not an attorney, Gonzalez would be "lost" trying to do the commission's work.

Gonzalez was scheduled to replace Donna Poole, a lawyer, April 7. The appointment is for four years and requires Senate confirmation.

Crist stood by the appointment. "She's honest, she's smart, she's got an advanced degree," he said.

Crist hired Gonzalez's husband, Jason Gonzalez, as his general counsel last month.

Crist appointee quits after criticism 03/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:15pm]
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