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Some tapped late by Bush may get boot from Crist

Early edition

Published January 5, 2007


Jeb Bush was a busy man up to the end of his term. A bit too busy, perhaps.

By the middle of next week, Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to dismantle a small part of the Bush legacy when he cancels some of Bush’s late-term appointments to boards and commissions.Mark it down as the start of cutting the umbilical cord.

Crist won’t say exactly how many Bush picks are in peril. “There’s quite a number, I think,” he said. “We’re not sure yet. I have to make that decision over the weekend.”

The big question in Florida political circles is, who is headed for the chopping block?

Bush’s reappointments of Phil Handy and T. Willard Fair to the state Board of Education are in jeopardy.

Bush reappointed them on Oct. 27, a little more than a week before Crist was elected. But the new terms of Handy and Fair didn’t begin until Jan. 1, the day before Crist took office.

Then, in December, they might have overreached badly by maneuvering to make Fair the board chairman and Handy vice chairman.

Crist has lots of friends who would love to be on that board, to shape public education policy and help pick the successor to John Winn as commissioner of education. Winn is among the most high-profile carry overs from the Bush regime, and Crist is eager to put his own stamp on state government.

(For the record, Handy and Fair each gave the maximum $500 to Crist’s campaign).

Crist and his staff have been reviewing Bush’s lame-duck appointments.

For example, on Nov. 6, the day before the election, Bush appointed two new members to the board of Enterprise Florida, the public-private business promotion arm. The day after the election, he put former House Speaker Allan Bense on the board of trustees of Florida State University.

Crist is a devoted 'Nole, so he’s going to be very attentive to who gets to be an FSU trustee. But he and Bense are friends, even though Crist bypassed Bense for the No. 1 spot in the Republican Party.

Bush also appointed seven people to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. He made appointments to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, Governor’s Mansion Commission, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing and Board of Dentistry.

All require confirmation by the Florida Senate — a key factor.

Crist has the power to cancel out Bush’s appointments as long as they have not been confirmed by the Senate.

That was made clear decades ago, in an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court to Gov. Reubin Askew.

In 1987, then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth provided added guidance to incoming Gov. Bob Martinez.

“… The Governor in situations where he alone exercises the appointment power may recall an appointment … prior to confirmation by the Senate,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Craig Willis.

What does Crist have against Bush appointees? The answer is nothing, in most cases. But Crist wants appointees loyal to him, not to the old boss.

He also does not want his administration to look like a warmed-over third Jeb term. People perceived as Jeb Kool-Aid drinkers are particularly vulnerable to being recalled.

Not to mention that an appointment is patronage. It’s a favor to a friend, supporter or volunteer, and Crist has a lot of IOUs from his campaign.

The cagey Crist would only say he’s likely to announce by Wednesday which Bush appointees are being recalled.

“I would stay tuned,” he said.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

[Last modified January 5, 2007, 19:49:40]

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