Suspended Regulator Blasts Patronis in Lawsuit

Suspended Regulator Blasts Patronis in Lawsuit

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Florida’s suspended top financial regulator, in a lawsuit alleging he is the victim of “pay to play — or else” politics, contends state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is running a “powerful but corrupt enterprise.”

Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin, who remains on administrative leave after an allegation of harassment by an agency employee, also seeks whistleblower status as part of a 33-page complaint filed in Miami-Dade County circuit court against Tallahassee lobbyist Paul Mitchell.

Rubin wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to move an ongoing inspector general investigation into Rubin’s behavior away from Patronis’ office and for Attorney General Ashley Moody to open a criminal investigation into her fellow Cabinet member.

DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferre said in an email Monday that the governor is reviewing the request. Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Moody, said Monday afternoon the Attorney General’s Office had not received a formal request for an investigation.

Patronis’ office, citing the advice of counsel, declined to comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

The lawsuit, which alleges conspiracy and defamation, was filed late Friday against Southern Strategy Group lobbyist Paul Mitchell. It contends that Patronis and his inner circle, which includes Mitchell, employ public humiliation and defamatory allegations to replace outsiders who “might expose their unlawful activities.”

Mitchell did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday. Mitchell, who on May 29 said he would provide no further comments, described Rubin’s account of events as “largely fictional” and “self-serving.”

Rubin has been on administrative leave since May 10 amid an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior toward an employee. Rubin, hired to the $166,000-a-year position by DeSantis and the Cabinet in late February, has strongly refuted the harassment allegation and refused to resign.

Patronis, who had championed Rubin for the job, has been supported in his call for Rubin to resign by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Moody has called the sexual-harassment accusation troubling. DeSantis has said action will occur swiftly once the inspector general investigation is completed.

Meanwhile, Rubin in the lawsuit claims attempted “extortion” by Patronis and has sought to tie the sexual-harassment complaint to a separate decision not to hire Kimberly Grippa, the ex-wife of former Leon County Commissioner Tony Grippa, a Mitchell friend.

“It is Rubin’s hope that this lawsuit will shed light on this enterprise’s pattern of corruption and abuse of power, for the ultimate benefit of Florida’s citizens,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit contends Patronis, Mitchell and Abigail Vail, who is now leading the day-to-day business of the Office of Financial Regulation, convinced one of Rubin’s staffers to “escalate a fully resolved office personality clash into a formal human-resources complaint.”

In a complaint Patronis released to the media last month, the employee said Rubin took her to lunch on April 30 and brought her to his downtown condo. Inside, Rubin told the employee to remove her shoes so as not to track dust inside. Rubin also removed his shoes before they viewed the condo. The employee described this as an “uncomfortable situation” in the complaint.

Rubin’s lawsuit said that while the staffer didn’t allege sexual harassment in her complaint, Patronis in a press release announcing the suspension of Rubin declared there were “troubling allegations in a sexual harassment complaint filed by an OFR employee.”

The lawsuit, highlighting text messages, claims Rubin’s father, a wealthy developer, repeatedly refused pressure to make a $1 million political donation for his son’s hiring. And later, the lawsuit contends Mitchell used the threat of contacting Rubin’s father about the harassment allegation to force a resignation.

“Increasingly desperate to execute Patronis’ program, Mitchell threatened to call Rubin’s 84-year-old father, who is in failing health,” the lawsuit said. “In what could only be compared to a scene from The Godfather, Mitchell texted Rubin that it would be ‘unfair to your parents, who are such lovely people, to find out after the news has broken.’”

On May 22, Mitchell allegedly texted Rubin’s father, “If you have a minute, I would love a chance to speak with you about what’s going on with Ron, and a suggestion on how best to resolve this. Ron wouldn’t take my advice that I offered in friendship before it all blew up, so now I’m hoping he will listen to you as I think he might have one last chance to best deal with this.”

Rubin’s lawsuit also contends Patronis employed a similar form of public disparagement against Rubin’s predecessor at the Office of Financial Regulation, Drew Breakspear, who resigned under pressure last year from Patronis.

Patronis pointed to a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication” from Breakspear’s office. Breakspear disputed the claims.

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9 Responses to "Suspended Regulator Blasts Patronis in Lawsuit"

  1. Avatar
    Hope   June 25, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Rubin is right as Patronis chose to use his office to attempt to give a job to a political friend’s ex-wife. I guess Patronis didn’t get the memo that his friend has a history of taking political vendettas to places that are so damaging to the public-at-large it should rise to a criminal investigation.

    Tony Grippa has a history of misusing funds while participating with public officials to carry out political vendettas on people that are so horrendous that it should rise to a criminal investigation.

    Governor DeSantis needs to stop this before it infects his otherwise spotless administration.

    Patronis may run one of the best restaurants in Florida, but he is a ruthless politico who needs to be stopped immediately!

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Snidely Whiplash   June 25, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Snidley’s many years of Government service provides an insight into the all critical whistle blower process.
    The process serves well the 15 – 20% of the honest folks who have been miss treated in government service.
    That being said: 80 – 85% of the filers are big ego narcissists who could not have their way and honestly should have never in government service in the first place.
    Slackers.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Hope   June 25, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Good info, Snidely.

      Remember, Patronis’ office settled a lawsuit only weeks ago for $250,000 by the claimant claiming a “boys club” office environment.

      I don’t believe that includes legal fees. This money ironically would be better spent going to the victims of hurricane Michael in Panama City.

      It appears that the “boys club” allegation is true and has even ramped up.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Snidely Whiplash   June 25, 2019 at 9:16 pm

        Yeah the boys club members probley got some dirty dirt on DeSantis or he would have cleaned house after the boys squandered that 1/4 million on B.S.

        Reply
  3. Avatar
    Jonathan Anderson   June 25, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Grippa has long been a carbuncle in Leon County. Patronis is a very questionable character and has been linked to many “undesirables” in his home county. Paul Mitchell is an extortionist extraordinaire, pure garbage. Rubin is a favor hire, and was and is unqualified for the job he is in. Follow the money with his father and other politicians.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    TG Brown   June 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Probably enough mud to go around but this Rubin guy sounds like a weirdo.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Hope   June 26, 2019 at 7:11 am

      You have to give Mr Rubin credit for not going along with the Boys Club shenanigans.

      Not only that, Mr Rubin is able to articulate – very well – what is actually transpiring and taking it through the proper channels and standing up to these bullies.

      That is something rare and hard to do and kudos to Mr Rubin!

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Invisible But Observant   July 1, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Mr. Patronis needs to look very carefully for sexual harassment incidents in his own office.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Tally Watch   July 16, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Patronis messed up letting Mitchell call the shots for Grippa’s ex… Mitchell’s ego will cost the state quite a bit of money on this one. You don’t send text messages, emails and voicemails like Mitchell did, leaving a record of the harassment, pay to play, etc. What a dumb@$$!!!

    If the last settlement for the “boys club” in the CFO’s office was $250,000 – Rubin will walk away with at least $500,000 and a stellar recommendation from the Cabinet.

    Reply

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