1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis should be investigated for posting report, lawyer for harassment victim says

Patronis released the woman’s complaint in an apparent attempt to pressure the state’s banking regulator to resign.
Public Service Commissioner, Jimmy Patronis questions a petitioner during a meeting, Thursday, April 16, 2015, in Tallahassee, Fla. (Tampa Bay Times Photo/Steve Cannon)
Published Jul. 2
Updated Jul. 2

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis should be investigated for breaking state law after he posted a woman’s sexual harassment complaint within hours of it being filed, according to a request by the woman’s lawyer.

Attorney Tiffany Cruz is representing a woman who lodged a complaint against the state’s banking regulator, Ronald Rubin, on May 10. Patronis, in an apparent attempt to pressure Rubin to resign, issued a news release announcing Rubin’s suspension that included a link to the woman’s redacted complaint.

Florida law seems clear: Employee complaints are “confidential and exempt” until they’ve been investigated. That warning was at the very top of the woman’s complaint form that Patronis released.

It’s a first-degree misdemeanor to knowingly and willingly violate the confidentiality statute.

THE BUZZ: ‘Pay to play — or else:’ Florida’s banking regulator alleges CFO corruption

Cruz wrote to Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday requesting that her office investigate.

“My client made her written complaint with every expectation that the complaint would be made confidential,” Cruz wrote. “Unfortunately, Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis and [spokeswoman] Katie Strickland, failed to adhere to the requirement of the statute and released a poorly redacted copy of the complaint to the media within a few hours of receiving it.”

Moody’s office responded to Cruz Tuesday by saying it wasn’t something their office could investigate. Moody’s general counsel instead referred her complaint to the Office of Financial Regulation’s inspector general.

If the inspector general finds a crime was committed, Moody’s general counsel wrote, then it would be referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, not the Attorney General.

Cruz said Tuesday that the release was “absolutely not” proper and that some people have been able to identify her client because of its release.

“Very clearly in the statute, it is not proper,” she said.

She said her client has “absolutely” been harmed, and that it’s possible she’s been used as a pawn in a dispute between two high-ranking Florida officials.

“The timing of the release, certainly, lends credibility to that argument, I think,” she said.

Strickland didn’t respond to a request for comment about Cruz’s assertion. Responding to questions last week, Strickland wrote that the decision to release the complaint was vetted by the department’s lawyers.

“All released documents were reviewed and redacted by legal counsel.” Strickland wrote.

Cruz is now the second person to request an investigation into Patronis for posting the harassment complaint. The first was Rubin’s own lawyer, who also asked Moody to investigate, citing the same state law.

Rubin, in a lawsuit filed last month, alleged that Patronis intentionally released the woman’s harassment complaint to pressure him to resign.

The woman wrote that she had to hide from Rubin at work after he twice invited her to check out renovations to his downtown Tallahassee condominium and invited her to stay at his apartment in Washington, D.C.

Rubin has called the incidents a misunderstanding.

As the commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, Rubin oversees the regulation of banks, payday loan shops and check-cashing stores.

He’s alleged a “pay-for-play” system within Patronis office, blaming the CFO for trying to oust him after he wouldn’t hire someone that Patronis’ chief of staff wanted him to hire.

Rubin, a former enforcement attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, had not had a full-time job in four years, and one media report said he’d been fired from his last job over an accusation of sexual harassment.

A maximum penalty for releasing a confidential employee complaint would be a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Cases where someone is charged, however, are rare.

One of the few examples is from last year, when Okaloosa County School District spokesman Henry Kelley was charged after releasing a complaint against a school employee to a television reporter.

Kelley was charged with a noncriminal infraction and paid a $500 fine.

Kelley’s lawyer, Nathan Clark, said what Kelley did was an accident. Kelley was merely fulfilling a request for public records from a reporter, and if he’d waited a few more days, he would have been allowed to release the record without penalty.

Patronis’ case looks much different. Florida law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for anyone who “knowingly and willingly” releases an exempt record.

Releasing the complaint the same day it was filed, combined with the fact that it appears Patronis released it without anyone requesting it, could be reason enough to open an investigation, Clark said.

“I think it’s easy to say there’s probable cause to investigate that,” Clark said. “A case can be made that he knowingly released this.”

Clark called the release of the harassment complaint “highly improper.”

Patronis was a restaurant owner and former state representative from Panama City before former Gov. Rick Scott named him to replace former chief financial officer Jeff Atwater as one of three people on Florida’s Cabinet. He was elected to the job last year.

The dustup over Rubin is largely one of Patronis’ own creation.

Last year, Patronis pressured the previous commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, Drew Breakspear, to resign over vague “concerns over the lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication.”

After a standoff, Patronis’ office released sexual harassment complaints that he alleged Breakspear mishandled. Breakspear announced his resignation days later.

Patronis then advocated for Rubin to replace him of 21 other candidates who met minimum qualifications. Rubin was picked by Patronis and the Cabinet in February and hired at a salary of $166,000. He remains on paid leave.


  1. Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel appears before the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    After an emotional four hours of debate, the same Senate that 20 months ago rejected calls for an assault weapons ban after the Parkland shooting, voted 25-15 largely along party lines to remove Scott...
  2. From left to right: Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party; Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Steve Contorno; and State Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, chair of the Republican Party of Florida. Times Files
    Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters and Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo will join Times Political Editor Steve Contorno for a Nov. 6 event.
  3. Lev Parnas, center, leaves federal court following his arraignment, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in New York. Parnas and Igor Fruman are charged with conspiracy to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Prosecutors say the pair wanted to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP
    Appearing with their attorneys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman said they will fight allegations in a grand jury indictment that they used a shell company to secretly steer hundreds of thousands of dollars...
  4. -
    A report presented to the Senate panel showed a variety of causes of deaths, including inmate-on-inmate assaults and suicides.
  5. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends an executive session of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    The senator drew backlash for the claim on ABC’s “The View.”
  6. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Kuehne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The vote is expected to be seen as a political victory for the governor and validation for the families of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
  7. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House. Grall is sponsoring a bill for the second time that would require parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion.
    The legislation would enact a consent requirement for minors.
  8. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    He could use his position on the Board of Clemency to allow nonviolent felons to serve on juries and run for office.
  9. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  10. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks supporters including Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, left, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    This new fact indicates an attempt to directly influence DeSantis’ early policy agenda as he took office, one that DeSantis said was unsuccessful.