TALLAHASSEE, - Almost three months after she resigned in the wake of a gambling probe into an organization that had been one of her business clients, there is still no replacement for former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.
And Gov. Rick Scott has shown little inclination to move quickly on naming a lieutenant governor who would succeed him if necessary. For now, Attorney General Pam Bondi would take over if Scott were unable to fulfill his duties for some reason.
Asked this week about the status of the search for Carroll's replacement, a spokeswoman referred a reporter to a comment by Adam Hollingsworth, Scott's chief of staff, to the Tampa Bay Times last week and said there had been no new developments.
"We're going to make the right decision at the right time," Hollingsworth told the Times.
On Tuesday, Scott did not answer a question about the lieutenant governor's office as he left a regular press conference following a meeting with the state Cabinet.
Carroll resigned March 13 at the request of the governor minutes after she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents about consulting services a company co-owned provided for Allied Veterans of the World, the entity at the center of an investigation into illegal gambling and other crimes in the Internet café industry. Carroll has not been charged in connection with the case and has denied any wrongdoing.
Even then, Scott stressed that he would not be rushed into filling the office. "We will not turn our attention to this topic until after this session ends," he said in March.
That legislative session ended a month ago. But Scott has also had to consider whether to sign dozens of bills and had to work his way through the state's $74.1 billion budget to decide which items to strike with his line-item veto.
"I think they've been probably preoccupied with those kinds of things," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.
Several names have been floated for the position, including Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice. Several emails urging Scott to appoint former Republican Congressman Allen West showed up in his public inbox after Scott made favorable comments about the tea party firebrand in a radio interview.
Thrasher said Scott and his administration are likely just being thorough in an effort to choose the right replacement. But Democrats suggested there might be more to the story.
"It's frankly unsurprising that Rick Scott, with a toxic approval rating and a deeply misplaced set of priorities for Florida, can't find anyone who wants to hitch their reputation to his," said Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, in an email. "It would be nice to have a member of the executive branch that hasn't been the target of a federal investigation."
The Florida Constitution and state law do not appear to provide any deadline for Scott's decision. The Constitution simply says that "[t]here shall be a lieutenant governor," then says the governor will decide the lieutenant governor's role. State law only says that "the Governor shall appoint a successor" when the office opens up.
The position has no real responsibilities beyond whatever work the governor asks the lieutenant governor to do, something that has led critics to argue that the office should be done away with.
Thrasher said the only disadvantage to not having a lieutenant governor is that it deprives Scott of another person that could help drive the governor's agenda.
"It's a big decision," Thrasher said, "and they ought to take their time."