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Cabinet Ousts Suspended OFR Commissioner Ronald Rubin After Sexual Harrassment Allegations

Ronald Rubin was ousted from his role as Commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation by the Florida Cabinet Thursday. It was the result of sexual harassment allegations, but Rubin is claiming there were political motivations at play.

The harassment allegations against Rubin, made by employees of the Office of Financial Regulation, were all of a verbal nature. Some of them are what State Chief Finanacial Officer Jimmy Patronis says cross the limits of ‘human decency.’

“I take full responsibility for recommending him as a candidate for this office,” Patronis said during the Cabinet meeting. “It is clear a much deeper vetting needed to take place in addition to the standard criminal background check that we did in the application process.”

Patronis read the alleged incidents of harassment as listed in the Inspector General’s report during Thursday’s cabinet meeting. There were 10 instances listed altogether.

“Number four: Asking a subordinate employee to remove their shoes to take a picture with him,” Patronis read in a fiery tone, going down the list. “Number five: Recounting to the same employee the sexual history of a family member. Number six: Telling the same employee that his parents were very fertile.”

Rubin was not present at the meeting. His lawyer, Michael Tein argued the Cabinet sought to remove Rubin from the job without adequate evidence.

“You can’t lawfully remove Mr. Rubin unless you can actually point to evidence that he broke the law. Because, if you are just removing him because he rubbed you the wrong way, the people of Florida won’t accept that,” Tein told the Cabinet.

Rubin has previously alleged Patronis, who initially suspended him from the post in May, did so for political reasons. He filed a lawsuit in June against a lobbyist the suit claims is in Patronis’ “inner circle” that alleges Patronis has set up a “pay to play” system meant to extort illegal campaign contributions. Tein alluded to that when addressing the Cabinet in Rubin’s defense.

“We will think that you removed him because he refused to play the game,” Tein said. “We will think that you removed him because he refused to bend to the will of powerful people and big money donors.”

The Republican Cabinet members ultimately voted to remove Rubin, with Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried withholding her vote. Fried cited transparency concerns, specifically that she felt the item concerning Rubin wasn’t on the meeting agenda, and hadn’t been publicly noticed.

Rubin was hired as OFR Commissioner in February. Governor Ron DeSantis announced there will be a nationwide search for his replacement. The post comes with a salary of $166,000 per year.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.