Pete Antonacci, who served as Palm Beach County state attorney since March, is returning to the Florida Capitol after being named Thursday as Gov. Rick Scott’s general counsel.
Antonacci, appointed by Scott to succeed Michael McAuliffe, who left for a private-sector job, is scheduled to leave office in January following the election last month of Dave Aronberg as Palm Beach County state attorney. Antonacci, who had been a statewide prosecutor and formerly a top deputy under Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat, has practiced law and lobbied in Tallahassee for the past 15 years.
Antonacci will take over the general counsel’s post Jan. 8, Scott said.
The opening in Scott’s office emerged when current general counsel Jesse Panuccio was named executive director of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
Panuccio takes over for Hunting Deutsch, who announced his resignation this week after questions were raised about him having received unemployment benefits for 20 months ending last year. Panuccio becomes Scott’s third jobs czar in 14 months.
During part of the period Deutsch was out of work as a banking executive, he traveled in Europe and was apparently unavailable to accept a job even if offered, a requirement of Florida’s unemployment compensation system. Scott, who apparently did not pressure Deutsch to leave, later said he had made the correct decision in stepping down.
Antonacci wasn’t a quiet caretaker in serving out the remaining months of McAuliffe’s term. He fired a couple of top prosecutors after criticizing the county’s criminal conviction rate, and took the unprecedented step of filing a legal motion to have a county judge, Barry Cohen, barred from presiding over criminal cases.