Florida CFO Wants To Replace Top Financial Regulator For 'Lack Of Cooperation'

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis says he has lost confidence in the state’s top financial regulator and has an interim replacement in mind.

Patronis on Thursday advised Drew Breakspear, commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, that he has concerns about a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication from your office in its dealings with your customers and Florida’s financial services community” and that he is prepared to address the issues at a May 15 state Cabinet meeting.

“My experiences with you and your office, and the feedback I have received from my staff, have validated these concerns,” Patronis wrote in a letter to Breakspear. “I believe this is due to a lack of leadership at the top.”

Patronis said he “no longer” has confidence in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, although he didn’t detail the reasons. He added that “should there be a change in leadership, I am prepared to recommend an interim commissioner to ensure continuity of operations.”

In a statement, Breakspear expressed support for the work of the office but otherwise withheld comment until he’s able to discuss the issues with Patronis.

“To date, I have had no discussions with CFO Patronis concerning the issues raised in his letter,” Breakspear said. “I have since reached out to him and look forward to discussing his letter with him soon.”

The office reports to the Financial Services Commission, which is comprised of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet.

Breakspear has been in the job since Oct. 2011. He replaced Tom Grady, a friend of Scott who left to become interim president of Citizens Property Insurance.

Patronis needs support from Scott and one other Cabinet member — Attorney General Pam Bondi or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam —  to make the leadership change.

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said the “matter will be discussed in an open, public meeting.”

Aaron Keller, a spokesman for Putnam. said the “appropriate place for discussion on this matter is at an open and public meeting of the governor and Cabinet.”

Similarly, McKinley Lewis, a Scott spokesman, said, “We learned of the CFO’s concerns from his letter today. This will be discussed at the next meeting of the Florida Cabinet.”

Scott went after Breakspear, along with a couple of other agency heads, in 2015. The effort was blocked by then-Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater as Cabinet members questioned the involvement of Scott’s office in the controversial exit of longtime Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Atwater left the Cabinet for a job with Florida Atlantic University in June 2017. Scott replaced him with Patronis, a former state legislator and longtime Scott political ally who had previously been appointed by the governor to the Public Service Commission.

Patronis is running for a full term this year and is expected to face a challenge in the November election from Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator from Broward County.

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