Financial regulator's office defends actions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A spokeswoman for the state Office of Financial Regulation disputed that the agency has shown an unwillingness to follow “emerging trends and technology,” which is among issues raised by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis as he seeks to remove the agency’s leader.

Jamie Mongiovi, a spokeswoman for Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear, also maintained that the agency “consistently meets with members of the public, businesses, and (Department of Financial Services) staff to address their questions and help them understand the agency’s role as regulator of Florida’s financial services industry.”

Mongiovi added, “Since the beginning of the commissioner’s tenure, the agency has been on the forefront of emerging issues, such as marijuana and banking, cryptocurrency, fintech and cybersecurity.”

Patronis, who oversees the Department of Financial Services, has requested Gov. Rick Scott and the rest of the Cabinet -- Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- discuss replacing Breakspear, who has been in his $135,158-a-year position since October 2011.

Breakspear’s tenure is expected to be addressed during a June 13 Cabinet meeting.

Breakspear’s office reports to the Financial Services Commission, which is comprised of Scott and the Cabinet.

Until Tuesday, Patronis had generally pointed to a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication” as the reason for his push to remove Breakspear, which was announced on May 3.

But Patronis spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos Farrar, in outlining issues on Tuesday, said there have been numerous occasions when Breakspear’s office has refused to meet with Patronis’ staff.

“There is no one single reason for the conclusion that we need a change in leadership at OFR,” Alexopoulos Farrar said. “Rather, a pattern of poor decision making and a lack of responsiveness to our office and others.”

Alexopoulos Farrar acknowledged that one of the issues involves a sexual-harassment allegation involving employees of the agency during an after-hours event. An agency deputy declined to take action.

Mongiovi said the accused employee received corrective counseling and that all division staff were required to review Florida’s code of conduct and agency policy regarding the standard of conduct for employees.