Field of hopefuls remains small for regulator job

An effort to lure more candidates to become Florida's top financial regulator by holding out the possibility of a higher salary doesn't appear to have brought in new applicants.

In fact, Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of the state Cabinet --- Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis --- lost one candidate for the job after the governor last week suggested a boost in pay.

One of the seven candidates to become commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation withdrew his name from consideration, according to the state Cabinet website.

DeSantis and the Cabinet are scheduled to take up the commissioner's job during a meeting next Tuesday. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the governor's office did not answer questions Monday and Tuesday about whether the list of candidates posted on the Cabinet website was final.

Former Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald Rubin, who was fired this summer amid allegations of sexual harassment, was paid an annual salary of $166,000. DeSantis last week suggested bumping up the pay to attract "some more qualified candidates" from the financial industry.

DeSantis also set a Sept. 29 deadline for people to apply for the position, which has seen the exits of two commissioners in little more than a year after they came under fire from Patronis.

Rubin was fired in July after a sexual harassment allegation that he disputed. Rubin, who had been hired in February, also has filed a lawsuit against a lobbyist with ties to Patronis and accused Patronis of running a "powerful but corrupt enterprise" that engages in "pay to play --- or else" politics.

Last year, Drew Breakspear resigned as commissioner after Patronis pointed to a "lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication" from Breakspear's office. Breakspear disputed the claims.

Aides for the governor and Cabinet meet Wednesday and are expected to create a short list of applicants for the job. Finalists would be interviewed next Tuesday by DeSantis and the Cabinet.

Among those who have applied are Linda Charity, a two-time former interim commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, and Bryan A. Schneider, who was secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation from 2015 until early this year.

Other applicants are: Mike Hogan, a Gainesville consultant who has worked as a bank chief financial officer, interim president and interim chief executive officer; Russell Weigel, a securities lawyer from Coral Gables; Joseph Hudgins, a senior executive vice president and chief credit officer for First Florida Integrity Bank in Naples; and David Weintraub, a Plantation attorney who represents investors in cases against broker dealers and who since 2016 has chaired or co-chaired the Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Committee of The Florida Bar's Elder Law Section.

Kevin Rosen, a senior manager of cyber risk services from Boca Raton who was the first to apply following Rubin's removal, withdrew his name from consideration, according to the Cabinet website.