Robert F. Milligan, Florida's newly elected bank regulator, has taken a step toward making good on a campaign promise: to try to turn the job into an appointive one.
The former Marine Corps general, who campaigned as a reformer and defeated incumbent Gerald Lewis last fall, appointed a 22-member task force last week to review separating the regulation of banking, securities, and other financial services from his duties as chief fiscal officer for the state.
He believes that though a chief fiscal officer should be elected, a bank regulator should not. Florida is the only state in the nation that elects its banking regulator and allows the official to accept campaign contributions from the state-chartered banks he or she supervises.
Mr. Milligan is uncomfortable with the arrangement because he says it gives the appearance that the official could be "co-opted" by the industry.
"We are doing what we said we are going to do," said Mr. Milligan, a Republican.
In his campaign last fall, Mr. Milligan lambasted Mr. Lewis for being too "cozy" with bankers and denounced him for receiving millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the industry.
"I just don't think that is healthy," he said in an interview.
Mr. Milligan said that by cutting out the duties of bank regulator he can spend more time as a consumer advocate and catch problems before they happen.
The task force will be headed by Art Simon, a former Democratic state legislator whom Mr. Milligan recently named as director of the division of banking.
Among the task force's 17 voting members are five bankers and a credit union manager. It will hold its first meeting on March 1 to begin reviewing how the office regulates financial institutions. It will also find a way to separate Mr. Milligan's regulatory responsibility from his job as chief fiscal officer.
John E. Milstead, executive vice president of the Florida Bankers Association, said bankers are "open minded" about the change.
"I don't know a single banker who is rebelling against it," he said.
Mr. Milligan wants to propose legislation in time for the 1996 session. So far, he sees no opposition and he is optimistic the law will be changed.
"I certainly hope it is going to be changed," he said. "Damn, if it isn't gone, I haven't done my job."