State banking regulator will resign after pressure from CFO Jimmy Patronis

Drew Breakspear said he will step down on June 30, he said in a letter to the Cabinet Thursday evening.
Gov. Rick Scott, left, appointed Jimmy Patronis to Florida's Chief Financial Officer in 2017. He's raised $2.8 million to win the seat for the first time with voters in 2018. [Tampa Bay Times]
Gov. Rick Scott, left, appointed Jimmy Patronis to Florida's Chief Financial Officer in 2017. He's raised $2.8 million to win the seat for the first time with voters in 2018. [Tampa Bay Times]
Published May 31, 2018|Updated June 1, 2018

The Florida banking regulator being targeted by CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Thursday evening that he was stepping down at the end of June.

Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear announced his resignation in an email to the four members Cabinet, which he reports to: Patronis, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“I am extremely proud of the great work and progress made by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) over the past five years,” he wrote. “As Commissioner, I believe I have provided both the leadership and the environment for achieving these accomplishments.”

He added, “I am tendering my resignation effective June 30, 2018, to ensure a smooth transition for the agency.”

But Patronis has wanted Breakspear gone for nearly a month, citing “concerns over the lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication” in a May 3 email to Breakspear.

Patronis has been mum about their concerns about Breakspear until this week, when things appeared to come to a head.

Early in the week, the CFO's office sent members of the media a 2017 complaint of sexual harassment involving two OFR employees, with the explanation that it was a reason for Patronis' displeasure with Breakspear.

The complaint by a female employee was that a colleague, analyst Benjamin Fualk, grabbed her breast while out drinking after attending a training conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Faulk said it was an accident that happened when he nearly fell out of a chair, and an investigation found that it did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The Department of Financial Services – which is overseen by the CFO – recommended that OFR restrict alcohol consumption by employees during work trips. DFS did not recommend any discipline for the employee.

Breakspear's second-in-command took the recommendation, but chose not to implement the alcohol policy. They did choose to give the male employee "corrective counseling."

Breakspear said Thursday that neither the CFO nor anyone from the CFO's office had ever expressed displeasure over the harassment case with him.

"No one from the CFO's office discussed this with me," Breakspear said in a statement to the Times/Herald on Thursday. "The first time we learned of the CFO's displeasure with this matter was in media reports."

And, he added, no one had ever expressed any displeasure with his performance. If he had known, he would have addressed their concerns, he said.

"I am extremely disappointed that, if the CFO had concerns over the past 10 months, I was not contacted by him so that his concerns could have been addressed immediately," Breakspear said.

Patronis, who was appointed by Scott to the CFO post last year and is running this year to keep the job this year, would have needed at least two other Cabinet members to support him in getting rid of the commissioner.

Patronis presumably would have had the support of Scott, who has wanted to get rid of Breakspear for reasons unknown since 2015.

Breakspear, 72, has been in the job since 2012, licensing and regulating several major financial industries, including banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan companies.