Florida Trend cover curse? Petrey on way out at Collins Centerby John Kennedy | August 5th, 2011
Sports Illustrated has its famous cover curse — where sports figures featured on the front seem to tank the next season.
But Florida Trend? The public policy and feature mag never seemed to be a place to fear, until current “Floridian of the Year” Rod Petrey ran afoul of the board of trustees at the esteemed Collins Center for Public Policy.
The board is scheduled to meet next Thursday, with Petrey, the president who was hand-selected for the job by late Gov. Leroy Collins, expected to be shown the door.
The center’s finances are at the heart of Petrey’s problems. Petrey has run the center since 1992, but its venture into administering a foreclosure mediation program seems to have undermined Collins’ finances, with those close to the situation saying upfront costs have sparked a serious cashflow problem that became evident to the board last month at a retreat.
In Palm Beach County, the Bar Association runs the mediation program, ordered to be conducted in all 20 court districts by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009. The Miami-Dade circuit recently dropped its association with Collins, heightening the money woes facing the think tank.
Merrett Stierheim, a former Miami-Dade County manager, is being positioned to replace Petrey on a temporary basis. But Petrey so far has indicated he is not willing to go, perhaps forcing an ugly ouster at Thursday’s meeting.
Petrey was named ‘Floridian of the Year’ in January by Florida Trend, earning a place on the cover and a generally laudatory story about his long relationship with the late governor, and the groundbreaking work done at the Collins Center, which includes working to develop low-income communities around Lake Okeechobee, a study on the potential effects of offshore oil-drilling in Florida, the costs of prison construction and elections reform in Florida.
Under Petrey, the Collins Center called itself the ‘think tank with muddy boots.”
“He has done a fabulous job in the past for the Collins Center,” said Parker Thompson, a Miami lawyer and Collins’ board of trustee chairman. “But I don’t predict the future.”
UPDATE: Petrey agreed Friday to step down from the Collins Center immediately; Stierheim to succeed him for now.