Hidden among more than 70 last-minute appointments by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, released at 6 p.m. Friday night, was one unusual choice: Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff to serve on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
A GOP stalwart who lost his 2016 bid to oust U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Beruff is currently facing an ethics commission complaint over how he helped one of his former development partners while serving as chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. In addition, one of his development projects has been accused of illegally moving an eagle's nest, and Manatee County officials investigated his company, Medallion Homes, for ripping up a county-owned conservation area.
"He's not necessarily my first choice for the wildlife commission," said Glenn Compton of the environmental group ManaSota-88, which filed the ethics complaint. "He doesn't have a stellar record on environmental protection."
Neither Beruff nor Scott, whose term as governor ended Monday, responded to requests for comment. Also, Scott's office did not make available a copy of the application that Beruff filed for the post explaining why he was interested.
State wildlife commissioners don't vote on development permits but they do set policy for management of the state's wildlife. For instance, they regulate such matters as whether to allow another bear hunt, or whether to permit anglers to catch and keep Goliath grouper. Wildlife commission scientists lead the research and tracking of everything from Red Tide algae blooms to manatees to the population and breeding of the official state animal, the Florida panther.
Commissioners are not paid but their expenses are reimbursed for traveling to meetings around the state.
Although Beruff has never won elective office, this is far from his first go-round with being appointed to a position. Scott previously appointed Beruff to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding and the Constitutional Revision Commission. Beruff's work as chairman of the constitutional commission faced widespread criticism over bundling ballot issues such as offshore drilling and indoor vaping, although almost all of its proposals won support from the voters.
Seeing him appointed by Scott to yet another position disappointed former Manatee County commissioner Joe McClash, a frequent critic of Beruff's development plans.
"Once again he has been appointed to serve where he has no experience to serve the best interests of the people of Florida," McClash said. Getting a spot on the wildlife commission is "a great departing last gift from Scott and demonstrates why we should all be concerned with him serving the best interest of our state as senator."
Scott's last-minute appointments as he leaves to become a senator mark a break from prior gubernatorial practice, and incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday he's considering rescinding at least some: "I'm going to look at all of them, I mean we will definitely rescind some of the appointments that are effectively lame duck appointments or that have not been confirmed by the Senate and we'll announce some of those soon."