Sunday, November 19, 2017
Education

Pinellas clerk, lawmaker's son left off Gov. Rick Scott's reappointment list

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TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has sacked two people from state boards with close ties to a Pinellas County senator who antagonized Scott and his top aide on a key issue in the recent legislative session.

Scott on Monday announced that he would not reappoint Pinellas Clerk of Courts Ken Burke to the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees, where he had served for 13 years. Scott also withdrew the appointment of Rod Jones to the Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine. Jones, a North Pinellas chiropractor, is the son of Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole.

Sen. Jones had lobbied for both men to keep their posts.

Burke, a St. Petersburg College graduate who has been active in college affairs since 1979, said Scott's chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, phoned him with the news.

"I think his words were that 'the governor is going in a different direction,' " Burke said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed."

Scott was forced to reappoint nearly 350 people to different state boards because the Senate adjourned in March without confirming his original choices. The Senate's inaction allowed Scott to reconsider some of his decisions. In all, Scott chose not to reappoint a total of 10 people.

On Tuesday, Scott declined to discuss individual appointment decisions.

"I looked to see who was the most qualified," Scott said. "Did they believe in the things that I believe in?"

Asked about Rod Jones, he said: "I don't want to talk about any one person."

Sen. Jones, the current dean of the Legislature and in the last year of a 28-year career, was a vocal critic of privatizing South Florida prisons, a project Scott supported.

When MacNamara summoned Jones to the governor's office to hear Scott's pitch, Jones refused.

Jones had earlier asked the governor to reappoint his son and Burke to their voluntary posts, and MacNamara has said he hoped Jones would be open to "horse trading."

"He has the absolute right to pick whoever he wants. That's the way it is politically," Sen. Jones said. "If it was a job that paid something, maybe somebody would give a damn."

Scott also declined to reappoint Tampa architect Carlos Alfonso to the University of Florida's board of trustees.

Alfonso, the only Tampa Bay member of the UF board, withdrew his application late last week when he learned Scott would not reappoint him.

Alfonso's ouster after more than 10 years comes as UF trustees plan to embark on a search to replace UF president Bernie Machen, whose contract expires next year, according to the Gainesville Sun. By replacing Alfonso, Scott could have more influence over the selection of Machen's successor.

Times staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

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