ENTERPRISE FLORIDA

Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs czar in line for big raise

 

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

For the second time in two months, Gov. Rick Scott’s top jobs recruiter is in line for a hefty raise, in addition to a new six-figure golden parachute if Scott does not win reelection next year.

Gray Swoope, CEO of Enterprise Florida, could soon earn $375,000 a year, with a new base salary of $275,000 and incentives worth $100,000 more if he meets dozens of performance standards in his contract.

Swoope now earns $230,000 a year. He received a $70,000 bonus in August.

SEVERANCE PAY

His new pact also entitles Swoope to severance pay of $137,500 or six months salary if he is “terminated without cause.”

As a political appointee who reports directly to the governor, Swoope is sure to lose his job if Scott loses his 2014 reelection bid.

Enterprise Florida’s Finance & Compensation Committee on Tuesday quickly approved Swoope’s new two-year contract, which is retroactive to July 1 and would end June 30, 2015.

“I think Gray is doing phenomenally,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Alan Becker, chairman of the committee, who worked with the past four CEOs of the public-private partnership.

“Gray is constantly on the road, he’s constantly on the phone, and he’s very responsive. He is better than any of his predecessors.”

Enterprise Florida’s full board still must ratify the new contract.

Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida, a watchdog group, said Swoope doesn’t deserve more money.

“We object to any taxpayer-funded entity that rewards an under-performing staff with excessive bonuses,” Krassner said, calling Swoope’s new salary eight times that of a typical Florida teacher.

Krassner said he was also speaking for three other groups: the Tea Party Network, Americans for Prosperity Florida and Progress Florida.

Swoope, 52, former director of the Mississippi Development Authority, was the first of Scott’s high-profile hires after he won the 2010 governor’s race.

He is central to Scott’s future, because the governor is pinning his hopes for a second term on his record of bringing jobs to Florida (Scott is chairman of Enterprise Florida’s board).

CLOSE TO SCOTT

Although often on the road, Swoope has use of a spacious office right next to the governor’s, even though he’s technically not a state employee.

His base pay is paid by taxpayers, with incentives paid from private funds.

Swoope’s job is to close deals with companies to bring jobs to Florida or expand in the state, working with local economic development groups.

Scott issued a statement through spokeswoman Melissa Sellers approving of Swoope’s new contract. “Enterprise Florida is incredibly successful. Their economic wins are up 40 percent over the past two years and this will be the first base pay raise since the organization’s beginning,” she said.

Swoope’s maximum new pay package of $375,000 would place him slightly below the president of the United States, who earns $400,000 a year.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com

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