Monday, November 19, 2018
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
Ron DeSantis hire a Democrat? After election, a shift in tone

Ron DeSantis hire a Democrat? After election, a shift in tone

In considering hiring a Parkland Democrat for a top spot in his administration, Ron DeSantis continues to send signals that he will govern more to the center.
Updated: 7 hours ago
With $124 million in new money, bus agency enters new world of options

With $124 million in new money, bus agency enters new world of options

More buses, more frequency. New sales tax mean big changes for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority.
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida recount 2018: Still confused? Read this.

Florida recount 2018: Still confused? Read this.

A handy Q and A to frequent questions about Florida's election recount, which ended Sunday.
Updated: 10 hours ago
Caldwell concedes, blames Broward’s ‘abject failures’ for loss

Caldwell concedes, blames Broward’s ‘abject failures’ for loss

“We cannot afford to have another election that produces similar delays, irregularities and questions over the validity of the election system,” he wrote.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Oldsmar election draws crowded field

Oldsmar election draws crowded field

Council member Eric Seidel's run for mayor draws three candidates for his open seat.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Woman who died after plunging off Royal Princess cruise ship identified as American as mystery deepens

Woman who died after plunging off Royal Princess cruise ship identified as American as mystery deepens

The FBI and prosecutors in Aruba are investigating the death of a 52-year-old woman who fell 14 stories from the cruise ship. One news site said a man had been seen choking her before she went over.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Most expensive Florida legislative race ever?

Most expensive Florida legislative race ever?

It's the Senate District 18 race in Tampa. An exact figure isn’t possible, however, because campaign finance laws don’t require political parties and interest groups to reveal how much money they put into individual races and where the money comes from.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida candidates get record amount in public financing

Florida candidates get record amount in public financing

Overall matching funds totaled $9,852,606, more than double the $4.34 million from the last midterm election in 2014 and easily topping the nearly $6.07 million in 2010.
Published: 11/19/18
Next stop for Florida passenger rail: More regulation?

Next stop for Florida passenger rail: More regulation?

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, said an Oct. 31 report from the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability backs concerns expressed by critics of the new Brightline service in South Florida that the state needs to regulate high-speed rail more.
Published: 11/19/18
Florida Dems hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot ‘cure’ forms

Florida Dems hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot ‘cure’ forms

The move came after reports showed that Democrats planned to send out forms with an incorrect deadline on them to voters whose mail ballots needed fixing.
Published: 11/19/18