Florida officials fire state’s top banking regulator

Florida officials fire state’s top banking regulator

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Cabinet fired the state’s top banking regulator Thursday, a week after the release of a state investigator’s report asserting that the official misused his public office and subjected women to sexual harassment.

The firing of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin deepened the public animus between him and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, who sought Rubin’s ouster . The two have been sparring publicly over the sexual harassment allegations amid Rubin’s countercharges of blackmail, “pay-to-play” corruption and using the “Me Too” movement for political gain.

As the state's chief financial regulator, Rubin was responsible for overseeing Florida's financial services industry, including banks and check-cashing outlets.

Rubin had sought "whistleblower" status for his client ahead of Thursday's Cabinet meeting. Rubin declined to appear before the four-member Cabinet but dispatched his attorney to seek leniency. Lawyer Michael Tein failed to persuade the officials to issue an official censure instead of a pink slip.

But the outcome seemed like a foregone conclusion, as Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody joined Patronis in voting to dismiss Rubin and to launch a search for a replacement.

The fourth member of the Cabinet, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, walked out of the meeting chambers after seeking to postpone the decision. She said the matter was not properly noticed under the state's open meeting rules.

"The bottom line is, I think there was clearly poor conduct and below the standards that we should expect," DeSantis said afterward.

Rubin had been on the job only five months before being suspended in May as complaints surfaced from some female employees about inappropriate statements and behavior. The report released last week by the Office of Financial Regulation's inspector general detailed the accusations, including how Rubin allegedly recounted the sexual history of a family member and made a statement about his own fertility.

Among the other complaints, Rubin allegedly asked a subordinate if the employee and spouse allow their dog to watch them have sex.

Although Rubin has apologized for making some of his employees "uncomfortable," his attorney said the incidents were purposely being mischaracterized far more salaciously than warranted.

"Just because someone feels uncomfortable, just because someone even doesn't like their supervisor," Tein told the Cabinet, "doesn't mean that Ron Rubin gets fired, publicly humiliated and his reputation destroyed forever."

Tein alleged that the "Me Too" movement was being used as a political bludgeon.

"This is not about standing up for Me Too," Tein said. "Me Too deserves real respect. Every woman in this room, every woman in Florida and in the workplace knows should never be weaponized for political purposes."

After the Cabinet meeting, Tein said Rubin would press on with his suit and vowed to expose the culture of corruption that, he said, was behind Rubin's firing.

Although Patronis had championed Rubin's hiring, Rubin alleges that their relationship soured when he declined to hire a candidate Patronis backed.

Patronis has denied Rubin's allegations.

Patronis took responsibility for recommending Rubin for the job.

“It is clear a much deeper vetting process needed to take place,” Patronis said.

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