TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Rick Scott’s embattled chief of staff abruptly resigned from his job on Saturday following a series of news stories detailing his job performance and handling of contracts.
Steve MacNamara said in his resignation letter that he would step down from his post July 1.
“It has been a pleasure and an honor serving you, but the recent media attention I have been receiving has begun to interfere with the day-to-day operations of this office,” MacNamara wrote. “I feel now is the time to plan for me to depart, for you to name my replacement and for us to work on a smooth transition.”
Scott announced that he was hiring Adam Hollingsworth, 43, to replace MacNamara. Hollingsworth currently leads the right-of-way division for Flagler Development Group and was once chief of staff for former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. Hollingsworth worked on Scott’s transition team before he sworn in as governor.
MacNamara, who is also a professor at Florida State University, was hired last summer to help Scott after the governor’s first few bumpy months in office. He was credited with helping the governor strengthen his relationship with the GOP-controlled Legislature. He also urged the governor to visit newspaper editorial boards, dress more casually at times and hold work days where Scott spent time doing the jobs of other Floridians.
MacNamara, who has been on unpaid leave from his FSU job, was previously the chief of staff for Senate President Mike Haridopolos. He said he was stepping down six months earlier than he had planned and would be moving to Vermont to join his wife where she is in a doctor residency program.
“It is my belief that I have helped Floridians begin to know the real Rick Scott _ a man who listens to them, tries to understand their issues and concerns,” MacNamara wrote.
Scott in a statement said that MacNamara had “a tremendous impact” on him and his administration and that he respected his efforts and ideas.
MacNamara found himself recently defending his work for both the governor and while he was in the Senate.
The Associated Press recently reported that while working for the Senate, MacNamara helped steer a $360,000 no-bid consulting contract to a friend who now leads a task force rooting out state government waste.
The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times this week wrote a series of additional stories about other contracts and how MacNamara clashed with one agency head over a decision by MacNamara to allow the state’s film commissioner to travel to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Several top agency heads _ who were hired by Scott when he first took office _ wound up resigning within months of MacNamara’s arrival.
MacNamara’s decision to resign also came just hours after he responded to a series of questions from AP regarding his involvement in negotiations between the state and a Tallahassee software company regarding a $20 million contract. The company was represented by a high-powered lobbying firm in the state capital.
Emails show MacNamara was involved in a push to give the governor’s office the ability to resolve any disputes between Infinity Software Development and the Department of Education over management of the contract.
Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson in late November wrote directly to MacNamara to protest “your desire to have another party manage the contract.”
“Having another party manage the Infinity contract and program implementation while remaining unaccountable to FDOE in a real sense only adds another layer of bureaucracy to an already politically-sensitive contractual environment,” Robinson wrote to MacNamara. Robinson’s email records show MacNamara read it about a half-hour after it was sent.
Robinson does not report to the governor or MacNamara but instead reports to the State Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor.
When asked about the contract this week, Robinson said that he and Infinity “found common ground” on the contract that was eventually signed in December. He would not answer any questions about MacNamara’s involvement.
MacNamara defended the decision to get involved by saying parents consistently ask the governor about Florida’s education system and that the governor provides “advice, counsel and leadership” to the commissioner.
MacNamara also said in his response that while Gov. Scott and Robinson met once to discuss the contract, he said he was “not involved in the negotiations” and left all discussions to his deputy chief of staff.
He said the idea to have the governor’s office mediate any disputes was suggested by his office because the state was behind schedule on the contract and it was being paid by federal Race to the Top grant dollars. Infinity got the contract after challenging the initial bid award to Microsoft.