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MacNamara's resignation: a look forward and a look back

Governor Rick Scott will soon say good bye to his second chief of staff, and welcome his third one since his 16-month term began. Sascha Cordner reviews the week of when Steve MacNamara announced his resignation after recent media reports scrutinized some of the contracts he handled as well as how he did his job.

A flood of allegations emerged from several news outlets in recent weeks. But, that did not faze Governor Rick Scott, when he was asked about his current Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara. Scott came to his defense just days before MacNamara said he was stepping down.

“We’re getting a lot of good things done,"said Scott,"Jobs are coming back. You’ve got a billion dollars in education. We got PIP done, and now you guys are being mean to my chief of staff.”

Some media reports outlined MacNamara’s clashes with agency heads who have since resigned. That included former Department of Economic Opportunity head, Doug Darling, and former Florida Department of Management Services Secretary Jack Miles. But, Scott says MacNamara was just doing his job.

“I talk to agency heads and I spend as much as I can. But, Steve is the chief of Staff and I think he’s done a great job," said Scott.

Other reports claimed MacNamara handed out contracts to friends and associates, like a no-bid contract to a friend who now leads a taskforce rooting out government waste. That contract was worth 360-thousand dollars.

And, just a couple days before his resignation, an ethics complaint was filed against MacNamara by a man in Clearwater. The complaint claimed MacNamara used state employees to help him pursue a position as a college president in Montana.

Finally, MacNamara met with the Governor over the weekend of May 12th and announced he’ll be resigning effective July 1st.

A few days later, it got the attention of late night talk show host Jay Leno, who put it in as a part of his monologue Tuesday night.

"And Steven MacNamara, the chief of staff for Florida Governor Rick Scott, has resigned amid allegations that he steered lucrative state contracts to his friends and relatives. The people most upset about his resignation? His friends and relatives. [audience laughter] Yeah, they’re screwed [laughter]."

As a former top staffer for former Governor Lawton Chiles, Ron Sachs says he knows MacNamara has a thick enough skin to take a joke from Jay Leno, even though the jab may have been a little inaccurate as the accusations only dealt with friends, not relatives.

He says resigning as Scott's chief of staff was the right move for MacNamara.

“To Steve’s credit, when you become the story as a top staff person, it’s probably not good for the Governor and his agenda, and he did a noble thing in resigning," Sachs said.

Sachs says MacNamara has done a lot for the Governor, including getting Scott to dress more informally and making his office more open to the press. He says that’s what strikes him as odd about the media reports.

“What’s been unusual about the press coverage is the very guy who improved their access to the Governor now is the target of some journalists’ pointed stories," said Sachs,"And, there’s never been any hint that Steve has done anything illegal, unethical outside of the rules. There’s never been any hint that he’s even profited by even one dollar by a decision he’s made, and I think a lot of it has been unfair.”

MacNamara will now be replaced by Adam Hollingsworth, who comes highly recommended by Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He’s known Hollingsworth for several years, and says Hollingsworth is a good choice.

“Well, he’s got relationships and experience with the Legislature, he’s also chief of Staff for [former] Mayor John Peyton here in Jacksonville, and he’s also got business experience. So, he’s got a good diverse background with experience specifically as the Chief of Staff. So, I think he’s a problem solver. I think he’s the perfect fit,” said Curry.

Hollingsworth is no stranger to Scott. He assisted the Governor in his gubernatorial campaign as an advisor. Hollingsworth says he’s looking forward to working with the Governor again.

“The Governor ran on a very focused platform and that was to create 700,000 jobs over the next seven years, and he’s well on his way to doing that. So, the team is already clear about the agenda and clear on the principles that the Governor uses to make decisions, and I’ll certainly look forward to helping to execute and that agenda that he’s already established,” said Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth is expected to start his new job as chief of staff on July 1st.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.