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Florida Cabinet to decide how to replace ousted bank regulator

Likely on the agenda: whether to conduct better background checks.
Florida Cabinet meets in Jerusalem. Left to right: Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. [Florida Channel]
Florida Cabinet meets in Jerusalem. Left to right: Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. [Florida Channel]
Published Sep. 24, 2019|Updated Sep. 24, 2019

It’s been nearly two months since Florida’s bank regulator was fired following a state investigation into claims he sexually harassed his colleagues.

And finally, state officials are going to figure out how to replace him.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet are scheduled to meet this morning, and on the agenda is a discussion about how they want to replace Ronald Rubin, the former Office of Financial Regulation commissioner they sacked in July.

Potentially up for debate: whether or not to do different background checks.

Rubin was just weeks into the job when he was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. After he was suspended, a report in Bloomberg Law stated that he might have been fired from his previous job, as an advisor to a Congressional committee, over a sexual harassment complaint.

Last week, an aide to Attorney General Ashley Moody suggested bringing state police to this morning’s meeting to answer questions about their background check process.

“We may want to have somebody from FDLE that handles that come to Cabinet to discuss or answer any questions,” said Erin Sumpter, Moody’s chief Cabinet aide.

Rubin got the job this year with the backing of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose office claimed it performed “extensive research and background checks" before recommending him to Patronis’ fellow Cabinet members.

Patronis later admitted they only did the standard employee background check, and his office has refused to release those records or any others relating to the scandal to the Times/Herald.

On Monday, his lawyer, Michael Tein, filed a lawsuit against Patronis’ office for not fulfilling other records requests relating to his case.

Rubin’s suspension and firing riveted Tallahassee this summer, as he accused a financial industry lobbyist and Patronis of working to orchestrate his downfall.

After he was suspended, Rubin accused the lobbyist and Patronis of firing him because he refused to hire and fire the people Patronis wanted. And he made the extraordinary admission that Rubin himself benefited from what he called Patronis’ “pay-to-play” scheme, claiming that he got the job with the lobbyist’s help.

Although the governor and Cabinet hire the Office of Financial Regulation commissioner, the office, which regulates banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan operations, is supposed to be independent of the political fray.

Rubin’s predecessor, Drew Breakspear, has also accused Patronis of playing politics with the office, accusing Patronis of pressuring him to resign after he didn’t drop a case against a major donor to Patronis’ campaign.

One of the office’s top attorneys told Politico that he, too, felt political pressure from Patronis’ office in the donor’s case.

Since then, far fewer people have applied for the $166,000-per-year job compared to last year, when dozens applied to replace Breakspear.

Just seven people have applied as of last week, including Linda Charity, who previously ran the office in an interim role, and Bryan A. Schneider, who was secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation from 2015 until early this year.

The governor and Cabinet have not yet interviewed the candidates.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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