Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Politics

Gov. Scott replaces head of emergency operations with political operative

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced the abrupt departure of the head of the state Department of Emergency Management, Bryan Koon, and replaced him with Scott's former campaign aide and Republican Party of Florida operative Wes Maul, who has just over a year of emergency operations experience.

Koon told the governor on Sept. 1 he would resign before the end of the hurricane season "to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,'' said McKinley Lewis, Scott's spokesman. The governor asked Koon to stay until Oct. 1 and he agreed. Maul, 29, will be promoted from chief of staff to interim director.

Koon inherited an emergency management agency that had been streamlined and refined by governors since Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead and other parts of South Florida in 1992. He was shielded from having to deal with a hurricane until 2016, when Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew raked the state as Category 1 storms.

"Since day one, Bryan has done an excellent job ensuring our state is prepared and able to respond to countless weather events including Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma," Scott said in a prepared statement. "I appreciate Bryan's willingness to stay on as we prepared for, responded to and now recover from Hurricane Irma. I wish Bryan and his family the very best in this next chapter of their lives."

Unlike previous governors, Scott did not allow his emergency management director to address the media at briefings or answer questions, preferring instead that he be the lone voice warning Floridians to be prepared. At one point, when a reporter asked Koon to respond to questions at the state's emergency operations center, he said he might have to "get the PIO (public information officer) to tell me if I can answer them or not."

Maul, who graduated from the University of Florida School of Law in 2013, first worked as a travel aide in the governor's 2014 re-election campaign, and the state Division of Elections shows he was paid more than $84,000 by the party and the governor's campaign. According to Maul's application for work in the governor's office, he then came to work doing similar duties with the title "special assistant to the governor."

This is the second time in two years Scott has elevated Maul. In May 2016, Scott named Maul chief of staff reporting to Koon.

"Wes Maul has been a valued member of my team since 2013 and has shown incredible leadership in his service to our state," Scott said in the statement. "As Chief of Staff at DEM, Wes has worked countless hours helping lead our state through Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and now Irma. Since earning his law degree at the University of Florida, Wes has devoted his life to serving the families of our state and I am confident in his ability to lead DEM as Interim Director as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma."

According to Maul's application with the state, while he was in law school he worked for three years at Barbri Inc. as a "student rep for a review course," spent six months doing legal writing and electronic discovery in UF's Office of General Counsel and worked for three months as a "summer associate" at Mezzanine Fund. He had no emergency management experience before becoming Koon's chief of staff. Mauls' LinkedIn page also shows he worked for one year at Mattress Town of Gainesville before graduating from law school.

Maul's promotion is one of a series of decisions the governor has made to elevate former campaign staffers. Scott is expected to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate next year.

In 2013, Scott gave another former Republican campaign operative, Taylor Teepell, a $116,000 job in a state agency in which he had no previous subject matter experience. In May, Scott moved Teepell from director of the Division of Community Development in the Department of Economic Opportunity to become the finance director of the New Republican Super PAC, which Scott controls.

Staff writer Kristen M. Clark contributed to this report. Contact Mary Ellen Klas at 850-222-3095 or [email protected]

Comments
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trumpís turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trumpís turf

The Democratsí seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation ó and a sudden a rush of confidence ó to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17
Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

WASHINGTON ó President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping defense policy bill that authorizes a $700 billion budget for the military, including additional spending on missile defense programs to counter North Koreaís growing nuclear w...
Published: 12/12/17
Donald Trump Jr. demands inquiry of House Intelligence Committee leak

Donald Trump Jr. demands inquiry of House Intelligence Committee leak

WASHINGTON ó Donald Trump Jr., the presidentís eldest son, has asked the House Intelligence Committee to open an investigation into leaked information related to his closed interview with the committee last week."To maintain the credibility of the in...
Published: 12/12/17
Original Watergate lock that burglars picked open is going to auction

Original Watergate lock that burglars picked open is going to auction

WASHINGTON -ó Itís the lock that launched a two-year investigation and took down a president. And now more than four decades later ó and for a starting bid of $50,000 ó it can be a really wonky conversation piece.Nate D. Sanders Auctions will auction...
Published: 12/12/17
Democrats say Trumpís tweets about Gillibrand sexist, unsavory

Democrats say Trumpís tweets about Gillibrand sexist, unsavory

WASHINGTON ó Plowing into the sexual harassment debate in a big way, President Donald Trump laced into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday, tweeting that the New York Democrat would come to his office "begging" for campaign contributions and "do anyth...
Published: 12/12/17
Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó National political leaders, a Hollywood actress and a retired basketball star made last-ditch efforts to woo voters in the Alabama Senate race Monday, as the candidates gave their final arguments in a pivotal special election that ...
Published: 12/12/17
PolitiFact: Looking back at the Trump teamís falsehoods of 2017

PolitiFact: Looking back at the Trump teamís falsehoods of 2017

President Donald Trump made many inaccurate statements in 2017. His White House team seems to be following in his footsteps when defending him. Some of Trumpís staffers have made the argument that it is valid to use inaccurate facts to bolster larger...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17
PolitiFact: Notable misstatements about Donald Trump from 2017

PolitiFact: Notable misstatements about Donald Trump from 2017

President Donald Trump’s words can be at odds with reality, a fact we’ve documented again and again during his first year in office. His claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is a "made-up story" earned Trump our 2017 Lie of the Year....
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA ó With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Published: 12/11/17