TALLAHASSEE — Gov.-elect Rick Scott is so committed to finding outsiders to staff his administration, he's reaching into his own pocket for more than $125,000 to pay the salaries and expenses of a New York head-hunting firm to recruit talent, according to an agreement obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald.
The agreement signed by Scott and the Gerson Group, however, demands that any confidential documents the recruiters obtain in the process be kept strictly confidential, even though state law requires that transition documents be public record.
"It's a sensitive process for all the applicants to go through,'' said Brian Burgess, Scott spokesman. "We want to be sensitive to how the recruiting and vetting process affects people's lives."
Scott, a former health care executive and multimillionaire, will use state money to pay 16 staffers at least $630,000 for nine weeks of work on his transition, documents released by the transition team show.
The Legislature has budgeted $800,000 for the governor's transition, as part of a $1.5 million transition fund set aside for the governor and all three Cabinet offices.
"We'll probably use every penny of it, but we won't go over,'' Burgess said.
If Scott's transition breaks the budget, will the he make up the difference? "We, as a transition team, don't want to set that precedent either," Burgess said.
According to the contract signed by Scott with the New York-based Gerson Group, he will pay their consultants, Tim D'Elia and Jake Hale, $25,000 for their work through Nov. 15, $50,000 for their work through Dec. 15 and $50,000 for their work through Jan. 15.
Although the transition team is required to make all documents public, the agreement also says that D'Elia and Hale will not reveal any confidential information they obtain, and that all confidential information is the "exclusive property of the transition team."
The agreement does not define "confidential information" and Pat Gleason, Gov. Charlie Crist's public records attorney, said it appears that the language is standard for recruiting private businesses. Both parties must keep confidential Social Security and similar documents out of the public record, she said, but anything beyond that would not be consistent with the state open records laws.
Scott's goal is to hire "fresh faces," Burgess said. People who have never worked in government will be given a priority and, if they have worked in government, Scott wants them to have had business experience and have met payroll, he said.