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Lorenzo leaves Scott’s jobs’ agency

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The former head of Florida’s jobs’ agency has announced her resignation, the latest departure from the new Department of Economic Opportunity created by Gov. Rick Scott.

Cynthia Lorenzo, chief operating officer of DEO, said she was leaving July 6 to spend more time caring for her two young sons. Lorenzo had been head of the former Agency for Workforce Innovation under ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, and continued in that role in the early months of Scott’s administration.

Scott, however, got the Legislature to reconstitute AWI as the new Department of Economic Opportunity, naming Doug Darling as the jobs’ agency’s head. Darling lasted six months — exiting soon after he acknowledged that Florida over the years had paid tens of millions of dollars to lure companies to the state for jobs that were never created.

Lorenzo briefly served as DEO’s interim director after Darling left. Hunting Deutsch, is the current executive director.

Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in April, it’s lowest level in three years. But the state’s unemployment compensation system — recently renamed ‘reemployment assistance’ — is being investigated by the U.S. Labor Department following a complaint by workers’ organizations that claim the state’s new online system of filing for benefits creates too many hurdles for out-of-work Floridians.

Critics have said frustration with the system may be aiding Scott’s goal of reducing unemployment. Some workers may abandon their job search or just leave the state, falling out of Florida’s labor market.

Unemployment benefits are paid by employers, and the changes approved in 2011 were pushed hard by the state’s largest business associations.

State officials say the changes have saved businesses millions of dollars and have helped spur Florida’s job growth.

MacNamara out as Scott chief-of-staff, Hollingsworth in

Saturday, May 12th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott’s chief-of-staff, Steve MacNamara, resigned Saturday after a brief meeting with the governor, concluding that ”media attention” focused on him had begun to “interfere with the day-t0-day operations of this office.”

MacNamara will leave July 1. Scott announced the veteran capital insider will be replaced by Adam Hollingsworth, who leads the right-of-way division for Flagler Development Group.

Hollingsworth is a former chief-of-staff to ex-Mayor John Peyton of Jacksonville. He left the mayor’s office to work for the Florida Republican Party in advance of Scott’s election, and also served on the incoming governor’s transition team.

“I’m grateful for Steve’s invaluable assistance in helping advance my agenda to strengthen education, create jobs and lower the cost of living for Floridians,” Scott said in a statement Saturday, while praising MacNamara for guiding a generally successful agenda for the governor through the Legislature this spring.

Scott added, “I believe Steve has had a tremendous impact on me and Ann as well as my administration and our state. I respect his efforts and ideas.”

MacNamara’s departure comes at least a few months ahead of his planned exit, but was hastened by media reports questioning his awarding no-bid contracts — one worth $5.5 million — to close associates while he worked for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. Former associates also accused him of being an overly controlling presence in the governor’s office.

Last week, a complaint against MacNamara also was filed with the state’s Commission on Ethics, accusing him of using governor’s office staff to assist him in inquiring about a college presidency opening in Montana. MacNamara and his wife own property in Montana, and influenced Scott and his wife, Ann, to buy near them. 

MacNamara left the Senate presidency job last June to join Scott, taking over as the new administration’s approval ratings tanked with Floridians, angered by deep budget cuts worsened by the governor’s difficulties connecting with the public.

MacNamara immediately attempted to soften the governor’s image — with Scott most days going without a necktie, suddenly visiting editorial boards he had shunned, and adopting a more cooperative approach with the Legislature.

Scott’s approval ratings remain lousy among Floridians, according to polls. But in his resignation letter, MacNamara pointed with pride toward his work helping Scott repair his first-year image.

“It is my belief that I have helped Floridians begin to know the real Rick Scott,” MacNamara wrote Saturday. “A man who listens to them, who tries to understand their issues and concerns, and works diligently to solve their problems.”

Before joining the governor’s office last June,  MacNamara directed wholesale housecleaning in the Senate administration, forcing out a number of longtime staff directors.  Some of the contracts MacNamara steered to associates and friends were part of his effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of Haridopolos’ office, qualities he also said he brought to Scott’s administration.

But MacNamara also drew controversy. Several Scott agency heads left over the past year, later citing MacNamara’s hands-on approach as interfering with their ability to lead, sometimes over seemingly petty matters.

 Doug Darling, chief of the Department of Economic Opportunity, a key agency for the job-promoting Scott, abruptly quit in January after MacNamara countermanded his order denying the state’s film commissioner a trip to the Sundance Film Festival.

MacNamara earned $189,000 as chief-of-staff.

He previously was chief-of-staff to former House Speaker John Thrasher, and served as an agency head under former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez. MacNamara is a tenured professor in communications at Florida State University, but helped shape Scott’s views of higher education as being rife with waste and overpaid administrators.

Although he didn’t comment directly on the accusations that have lately hounded him, MacNamara closed his two-page resignation letter by hinting that he was the target of those losing out on government contracts under the belt-tightening Scott. He also suggested that Scott would continue to defy these critics.

“As you continue to cut government waste,” MacNamara wrote, “those vendors of goods and services will work diligently to twist the story and bring about public pressure to stop these cost savings. Good luck with that!”

Scott jobs chief Doug Darling resigns after six months on the job

Friday, January 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Doug Darling, the head of Gov. Rick Scott’s “Department of Economic Opportunity,” is leaving the post six months after the governor appointed him to lead the newly-created agency at the end of July.

Agency for Workforce Innovation chief Cynthia Lorenzo will fill in as interim director beginning Wednesday, Scott said in a statement announcing Darling’s resignation. Darling, who cited “personal reasons” for his departure in a letter to the governor dated yesterday, will stay on the job until Tuesday but pledged to help with the transition for another month.

“I am incredibly grateful for Doug’s 15 years of service to the State of Florida and the contributions he has provided to numerous state agencies and my office. I appointed Doug in July to lead the new agency, and I thank him for his invaluable efforts in getting DEO off the ground. He has been a tremendous asset during these first months of the agency and has been instrumental in promoting Florida as the top place to do business,” Scott said, wishing Darling “the best in his future endeavors.”

Darling was forced out as a top aide to former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink – who lost her bid for governor to Scott by a hair – over an audit that found his division lacking in internal controls. Darling also served at the departments of Environmental Protection and Education.

Darling generated some controversy in the fall when he revealed that Florida has paid tens of millions of dollars to lure companies to the state for jobs that were never created. After Darling initiated a review of the economic development incentives, his office later backed away from his critique of the jobs return on the tax breaks, saying the situation wasn’t as bad as it first appeared.

Scott names agency heads

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott rounded out his administration today, naming three long-time state government workers as agency heads.

The appointments include a holdover from his predecessor Charlie Crist, a long-time legislative staffer and a former aide of his gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink.

Scott made Cynthia Lorenzo’s job as interim director of the Agency for Workforce Innovation permanent. Crist put Lorenzo in charge of the agency that oversees unemployment compensation in 2009. She’s worked in state government for more than six years, serving at the Department of Juvenile Justice and the state transportation department.

Mike Hanson will head up the troubled Agency for Persons with Disabilities, which for years had been running a deficit and at one time had a wait list of more than 18,000 Floridians seeking services. Hanson has been a health care guru for the state for more than three decades, serving under Gov. Jeb Bush and as a policy analyst in both the House and Senate. Most recently, Hanson was the staff director of the Senate’s health and human services budget committee.

Doug Darling, currently the governor’s deputy chief of staff and director of Cabinet affairs, will take over Scott’s new Department of Economic Opportunity. Darling was forced out as a top aide to former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink – who lost her bid for governor to Scott by a hair – over an audit that found his division lacking in internal controls. Darling also served at the departments of Environmental Protection and Education.

Scott filling out inner circle with Crist holdover, axed Sink employee

Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott added five more high-level workers to his staff – including one fired by his former gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink – as the new governor continues to put together an administration at the end of his second official week on the job.

Scott hired Melinda Miguel to come back to her old post as inspector general, which she also held under Gov. Charlie Crist.

And Scott tapped Doug Darling as his third deputy chief of staff (Darling will be in charge of Cabinet affairs). Then-Chief Financial Officer Sink axed Darling, who was her chief of the Division of Accounting and Auditing, for failing to discover a scheme to defraud the state of millions of dollars. The plan was revealed by an auditing firm. Darling, a former Marine, later went to work as chief of staff and, until now, inspector general for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Jesse Panuccio, an associate at Cooper & Kirk, and C.B Upton, general counsel for the Department of State, will join Scott’s legal team.

And Brian Hughes will go to work for Scott’s spokesman Brian Burgess. Hughes recently served as spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s winning campaign. Hughes also served in the military and is a decorated Air Force vet, according to a press release on Scott’s Facebook page.

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