Dawdling Senate lets Scott's appointments stay in limbo

Published April 3, 2012

Little is left to chance in the Florida Legislature.

While things may look haphazard from a distance, there's usually a road map somewhere. The challenge is finding the truth that lies behind what the eye sees.

The Senate ended the 2012 session last month without executing its fundamental duty to confirm hundreds of Gov. Rick Scott's appointees to state boards and to run state agencies. It's a glaring oversight that the Senate can't explain convincingly.

Rarely does the Senate not confirm someone. The process has a rubber-stamp quality and takes minutes.

But while senators devoted hours to pontificating on one issue after another and allowed term-limited members to make windy farewell speeches, they were unable to find 10 minutes to confirm Scott's appointees.

"We got jammed up," Senate President Mike Haridopolos said lamely.

In fact, it took a plea from Scott's office for the Senate to confirm eight holdover appointees who had been unconfirmed in the 2011 session and would have lost their jobs if they weren't approved. They included Ananth Prasad, head of the Department of Transportation, and Tena Pate, one of three parole commissioners.

That's a red flag, too. If the Senate could confirm those eight, surely they could have confirmed the other 414 who now languish in political limbo, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner and prisons chief Ken Tucker.

Dozens of others are big-name Republicans who served in state government or are active in Florida politics.

Here's where things get very interesting. Scott has 45 days to reappoint everybody, retroactive to March 9.

His appointments director, Chester Spellman, sent them an email that said: "The governor is currently reviewing each appointment and our office will be in contact with you in the coming weeks once a decision has been reached."

Asked if he has second thoughts about any of his original appointees, Scott said last week: "I'll go back through and look." He said his office did not request inaction by the Senate.

"Did the governor request that they not be confirmed or was it an oversight? I don't know," said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole.

Jones' son, Rod, is one of the unconfirmed appointees — to the Board of Chiropractic Medicine. During the session, Jones got into a scrap with the governor's office when he refused a request by Scott's chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, to meet with the governor in his unsuccessful effort to privatize prisons.

"It's unfortunate that so many of them are in limbo," Jones said. "I guess we'll find out which ones are in play."

The governor makes thousands of appointments a year. It's time-consuming, and with Scott the process seems to be moving more slowly.

A case in point occurred the other day when Scott appointed Matt Carlucci, a 55-year-old Jacksonville insurance agent, to the Commission on Ethics. Carlucci is replacing Cheryl Forchilli of Tampa, whose term ended June 30, 2011, nine months ago.

In the press release announcing Carlucci's selection, Scott's office said: "The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate."

Yeah, right. Eventually.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at