Second FL Cabinet member calls for state official to resign

Ronald Rubin, CSPAN screenshot

UPDATED with Robert Rubin’s response

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Wednesday became the second Florida Cabinet member to call on Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin to resign amid sexual harassment allegations.

“If I could remove Mr. Rubin from office myself, I would,” Patronis said in a written statement, noting that the law requires the elected Florida Cabinet to vote on it. The Cabinet next meets on Tuesday, June 4.

Shortly after Patronis’ statement calling for his resignation, Rubin responded by releasing a vehement denial of the charges and blamed a host of Florida Republican insiders for conspiring against him because he declined to hire a hand-picked official chosen by Patronis and his chief-of-staff Ryan West. He alleges that the charges against him were made up as an effort to have him resign his position before the Inspector General’s report is finished, and to preempt his opportunity to address the issue in a public forum.

Patronis was one of Rubin’s chief advocates, but no more.

“After a briefing of the Inspector General’s preliminary findings of the recent allegations against Mr. Rubin and reviewing newly-published news reports including those of sexual harassment allegations at his previous job, I am requesting that he immediately resign the position of Commissioner for the Office of Financial Regulation.”

At the beginning of the year, Patronis pushed for Rubin’s hiring over 21 other applicants in a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and two other Cabinet members, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In his statement Wednesday, Patronis changed course: “Mr. Rubin’s actions are alarming and cannot be tolerated in any work environment, especially one of public trust. He should do the right thing and step aside to allow the people’s business to continue to move forward without further distraction.”

Rubin was put on paid administrative leave on May 10 after allegations of workplace sexual harassment. Patronis’ office released a complaint filed at the time by an employee who said Rubin’s behavior made her so uncomfortable that she hid and took time off to avoid seeing him in the office.

Attorney General Ashley Moody reacted to that announcement by calling the allegations “deeply troubling” and said if true, the Cabinet should “strongly consider his termination.”

That was followed up days later by two more people filing complaints of inappropriate work behavior against Rubin. One of those complaints said that Rubin said he couldn’t find enough smart people in Tallahassee and that there were too many “rednecks” in the capital.

But perhaps the final straw was a story last week by Bloomberg Law reporting that the U.S. House Financial Services Committee fired Rubin in 2015 when allegations of sexual harassment were “deemed credible by the committee.” That was Rubin’s last full-time job before the Florida Cabinet hired him in February.

The story also reported that a dozen people who once worked with (or had professional interactions with) Rubin told Bloomberg Law that the allegations in Florida were consistent with what they said was inappropriate behavior in prior jobs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the House Financial Services Committee.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Financial Services told Bloomberg Law that Rubin’s appointment was subject to “extensive research and background checks by each Cabinet office” and conducted through a “public and transparent process.”

The Office of Financial Regulation provides regulatory oversight for the state’s financial services industry.

Patronis and the rest of the Florida Cabinet held a largely ceremonial meeting in Israel on Wednesday; it’s likely they will vote on Rubin’s fate June 4 when they meet in Tallahassee.

 

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