Asked to resign, Florida’s top banking regulator claims corruption
Ronald Rubin, Florida’s top banking regulator, was asked to resign Wednesday by the state’s chief financial officer after a review of an inspector general’s report that detailed allegations of sexual harassment.
Instead, Rubin is responding with allegations against the state CFO, claiming that he is being ousted because he refused what he says was a request to hire an unqualified person with ties to the Florida official as the banking commission's general counsel.
The accusations and counterclaims are part of an increasingly bizarre situation in the sunshine state concerning its bank regulatory office.
Rubin was put on leave on May 11 after state officials announced they were investigating a sexual harassment claim filed against him by an employee. Jimmy Patronis, who as the state's CFO oversees Florida's Department of Financial Institutions, said Wednesday that Rubin should step down, citing an IG review of the allegations.
“After a briefing of the Inspector General’s preliminary findings of the recent allegations against Mr. Rubin and reviewing newly-published news reports including those of sexual harassment allegations at his previous job, I am requesting that he immediately resign the position of Commissioner for the Office of Financial Regulation,” Patronis said in a press release.
Though Patronis oversees Florida's Department of Financial Institutions, where Rubin runs the Office of Financial Regulation, Rubin can only be removed by a vote of the state's four Cabinet-level officials: Patronis, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. It's not clear whether that will happen.
“If I could remove Mr. Rubin from office myself, I would,” Patronis said in the release. “But this is a Cabinet-appointed position that would require Cabinet action. It should not come to that. Mr. Rubin’s actions are alarming and cannot be tolerated in any work environment, especially one of public trust. He should do the right thing and step aside to allow the people’s business to continue to move forward without further distraction."
Rubin, meanwhile, is denying the sexual harassment claims and refusing to resign. He is also making his own accusations against Patronis. In a statement sent by Rubin's lawyer, he claims that shortly before he was appointed as commissioner, a lobbyist acting on behalf of Patronis said the state's CFO had identified a candidate to serve as the banking commission's general counsel. Rubin said he would likely hire the candidate if the person was qualified.
But when Rubin interviewed the candidate later, he felt her qualifications were insufficient, according to his statement. The ex-wife of a former Florida county commissioner, she had previously served as a professor of paralegal studies at a local university. Later, after sexual harassment allegations were made against Rubin, that candidate filed her own complaint claiming Rubin disparaged Tallahassee and made other unusual statements (she did not claim he harassed her). Though that complaint is available on the Florida CFO's website, the name of the candidate is redacted.
Rubin argues that Patronis is seeking to punish him for refusing to hire his allegedly hand-picked candidate.
In a statement, Patronis denied that is the case.
“Mr. Rubin’s account is the very definition of victim blaming and an attempt to undermine these victims’ testimonies of troubling allegations," Patronis said.
Rubin has served as Florida’s banking commissioner for just three months. He previously worked as a staff member for the House Financial Services Committee and as a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams. He also had been an enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The original sexual harassment complaint, filed in May, claimed that Rubin had put an employee in an "uncomfortable situation." The employee claimed that Rubin invited her to lunch and suggested they first stop at his condo “so that he could show me the renovations that had been done,” according to the complaint, which was published on the agency’s website. The name of the employee was redacted to protect her privacy.
Rubin allegedly asked her to remove her shoes and then gave her a tour, the complaint said. After the two had lunch, the employee said that Rubin again suggested they again stop at his condo on the way home.
The next day, Rubin allegedly invited the employee to attend a conference in Washington, D.C., which Rubin would also be attending. When she declined, Rubin allegedly told her that she could stay at his D.C. apartment, according to the complaint.
“He said, ‘Well, if you ever get the chance to go up there, just let me know and I will give you the key to my apartment,' ” the employee stated in the complaint.
The employee claimed she sought to avoid Rubin after that, and at one point chose to stay in her office with the door closed “until he had passed in another attempt to avoid him,” the complaint said.
Florida officials who work in Patronis’ office started a review of the complaint and put Rubin on administrative leave.
In his statement issued Wednesday, Rubin claimed the employee had misunderstood his intentions and he had not been aware he had made her uncomfortable.
"It was absolutely clear that I was offering her the use of my Washington apartment while I was in Florida so she would not have to pay for a Washington hotel, and I considered the offer to be one of kindness and generosity," Rubin said in his statement. "I would have made the same offer to any friend or co-worker I could trust not to damage the apartment."