Enterprise Florida chief quits in tangle with governor

TALLAHASSEE - After three months on the job, Enterprise Florida President Chris Hart resigned from his position Monday, citing differences with Gov. Rick Scott over his vision for the troubled agency’s future and the lack of an employment contract.

Hart wrote in a resignation letter sent to Scott that he disagreed with the governor's approach to steer the agency through a contentious legislative session, which includes a plan to eliminate its state funding.

“Unfortunately, during this same time period, I have come to realize that you and I do not share a common vision or understanding for how Enterprise Florida, Inc. can best provide value within your administration,” Hart wrote. “This difference of opinion is of such a critical nature that I no longer believe I can be effective in my position."

Furthermore, Hart has been working without a contract since he officially began his job in January. Those negotiations also seemed to have broken down.

Related link: Enterprise Florida officially picks new president

“Therefore, since we have been unable to reach consensus and have no formal agreement or contract in place, I tender my resignation from Enterprise Florida, Inc. effective immediately,” Hart wrote.

Scott serves as the chairman of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Hart's resignation took the governor by surprise.

“It is odd that Chris Hart never shared any differences of opinion or vision with the governor until we first read that he had them in his resignation letter," Schutz wrote in an email. "The future of (Enterprise Florida) and its role in creating more jobs in Florida as we compete with other states is more important than one person’s sudden change of opinion or position, no matter how surprising.”

Scott chose Hart after a selection committee picked two other candidates from roughly 100 applicants.

Scott uses Enterprise Florida to carry out his signature mission of bringing jobs to the state. Hart’s departure just one day before the start of this year’s legislative session is a blow to the governor's fight for state incentives. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, is leading his chamber in a plan to sever all public dollars from Enterprise Florida and 21 other programs that give tax and cash incentives to corporations.

Corcoran’s opposition to Enterprise Florida is philosophical, arguing incentive programs used by Enterprise Florida offer an unfair advantage to some companies. He said he would rather see the state’s economy grow from tax cuts.

Hart accepted the job Nov. 30 at an Enterprise Florida board meeting, where he spoke of the agency’s employees viewing themselves as stewards of the public dollar. Hart’s salary would have been $175,000 to $200,000 a year, far less than the $265,000 a year he collected as the former chief of Florida CareerSource.

Hart replaced Bill Johnson, who resigned at Scott's request after the Legislature rejected the governor's priority request of $250 million for cash incentives meant to lure companies to the state. Johnson was thrown into controversy after reports of overspending and his creation of top-level positions for employees who worked for him at his previous job as director of PortMiami.

Naples Daily News


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