Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida surgeon general who was subject of sexual harassment probe keeps UF job

Under terms of the five-page agreement, Rivkees will remain tenured and continue full-time employment with the University of Florida.
<Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
Published Jun. 24

Florida’s new surgeon general has negotiated an unusual two-year arrangement that allows him to remain employed at the University of Florida -- and keep his tenured position -- while also being in charge of the state Department of Health.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced April 1 that physician Scott Rivkees would take over the sprawling agency, but Rivkees did not start the job until this month, due in part to working out the agreement.

Though the DeSantis administration noted that the arrangement is allowable under state law, it’s unusual, if not unprecedented, for the Department of Health secretary to have another job.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida surgeon general nominee in hot water over hot tub comments

Under terms of the five-page agreement, Rivkees will remain tenured and continue full-time employment with the university under “salary and benefits as agreed by (the) university, including but not limited to workers’ compensation benefits.”

Rivkees will be “assigned” to work as the Department of Health secretary, a position that doubles as the state’s surgeon general, the agreement said. The state will pay the university $140,000, in four quarterly installments of $35,000. The contract, dated Thursday, allows Rivkees to receive travel reimbursement.

Rivkees reported Thursday to the Department of Health headquarters in Tallahassee, according to Helen Ferre, a spokeswoman for DeSantis.

Melanie Fridl Ross, a spokeswoman for UF Health, did not respond to questions about how the change in positions would affect Rivkees’ salary. He currently earns $546,810 from a variety of sources, including state funds, according to a state website.

But in a statement to The News Service of Florida, Ross said Rivkees will keep his appointment as professor of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine. In that capacity, she said, he will he will focus 10 percent of his time on his federally funded research projects and 10 percent on teaching.

Ross also said Rivkees has resigned from three other positions because of his move to the Department of Health: chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, and member of the UF Health Shands Board of Directors.

Rivkees was still listed Monday on the university’s website as chairman of the department.

He also was listed on the UF Health Shands Board of Directors.

The News Service reported in April that Rivkees had been the subject of a university sexual harassment investigation, was found by a university auditor to have not properly filed financial-disclosure information and was suing a one-time colleague for libel and slander. DeSantis remained committed to his appointee.

When the state created the modern-day health department in 1996, lawmakers required that it be run by a Florida-licensed doctor. Lawmakers tinkered with the law at the behest of former Gov. Charlie Crist to require that the secretary also serve as “state health officer” and have advanced training or extensive experience in public health administration.

The department has more than 12,800 employees and is charged with ensuring public health and regulating health-care professionals. The agency has a budget of slightly more than $3 billion for the upcoming year.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sen. Travis Hutson presents his Job Growth Grant Fund legislation to the Senate Education Committee on Nov. 12, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The original version would have targeted charter schools only.
  2. Florida Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was the sponsor of a law that was to go into effect Friday that would have created new requirements for abortion doctors that could have limited the number of clinics. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar Texas restrictions, raising doubt about the fate of Florida's new law. [Scott Keeler | Times]
    The delay, which kicks a vote on the bill into mid-December, could stall what may be one of state lawmakers’ most contentious decisions on a political live wire going into a presidential election...
  3. A flag supporting President Donald Trump flutters near the University of Florida's Century Tower before an Oct. 10 appearance on campus by Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle. A controversy over the political nature of the event has led to calls for the impeachment of Student Body President Michael C. Murphy, who helped set it up. Courtesy of Chris Day
    A push to oust Student Body President Michael Murphy comes after an email surfaces, suggesting he worked with the Trump campaign to bring a political speech to campus.
  4. Morton Myers, 40, is an entrepreneur, a lifelong Clearwater resident and now a candidate for mayor who comes from a family of Scientologists. He says he is not a practicing Scientologist and is running to bring change and representation to all residents. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Morton Myers says he’s not an active member. But with family on Scientology’s staff, he says he’s uniquely positioned to find middle ground with the church.
  5. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    “People are going to discover all over again what Pam Bondi’s made of,” says the consultant who engineered her foray into politics 10 years ago.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at New York City's 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) SETH WENIG  |  AP
    Trump will speak at the Hollywood summit on Saturday, Dec. 7 before traveling to Orlando for the Florida GOP’s Statesman’s Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks in front of a painting of former President George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on Oct. 27. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Trump pointed to Washington as precedent for an active businessman serving as president.
  8. The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway was built in Tampa as toll road. Commissioners are divided over an elevated toll road proposed for southern Pasco.
    After frustration about their oversight of three potential new toll roads, the department moved up their timeline for scrutinizing the projects.
  9. Florida Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was the sponsor of a law that was to go into effect Friday that would have created new requirements for abortion doctors that could have limited the number of clinics. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar Texas restrictions, raising doubt about the fate of Florida's new law. [Scott Keeler | Times]
    The Senate has opposed this bill. That may change in 2020.
  10. Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
    Data provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows the state placed more than 14,000 children in isolation while in the care of the juvenile justice department during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement