Florida

Florida banking regulator, accused by an employee of sexual harassment, is suspended

Florida’s top banking regulator was suspended Friday after an employee accused him of “inappropriate and uncomfortable” behavior just weeks after he took the job.

Ronald Rubin, commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, is on paid leave while an inspector general investigates.

An agency spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the open investigation. Rubin was unable to be reached for comment Monday, but he declined to comment to the American Banker newspaper over the weekend.

On Friday, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis issued a press release announcing Rubin’s suspension and released a redacted complaint filed by one of the employees working in Rubin’s agency.

The employee, whose name and title were redacted, described behavior by Rubin that forced the employee to hide and take time off to avoid seeing the commissioner.

On the way to lunch with Rubin one day in April, the commissioner suggested the two stop by his downtown Tallahassee condominium “so that he could show me the renovations that had been done,” according to the complaint.

Rubin asked the employee to remove their shoes, and the employee described it as an “uncomfortable situation.”

While at lunch, Rubin mentioned his parents’ sex life. On the way back from lunch, Rubin again wanted to stop by his condo to talk to people who were painting it.

The next day, Rubin offered the employee to go with him to a conference in Washington. When the employee declined, he offered a key to his D.C. apartment whenever the employee wanted to visit the city.

The behavior prompted the employee to ask for another position within the agency. And in other instances, the employee hid in an office and declined to hang out with coworkers out of fear of running into Rubin, according to the complaint.

“I feel like my opportunities to get to know my coworkers and people in this agency have been hindered by inappropriate and uncomfortable circumstances,” the employee wrote. “Considering I am new to the agency it has made my transition here much more difficult than I feel it should be or would be otherwise.”

“Every person deserves to feel safe and respected in their work environment,” Patronis said in a statement Friday. “That standard is non-negotiable.”

On Monday, Attorney General Ashley Moody called the allegations “deeply troubling” and said they should be addressed during an emergency Cabinet meeting. Rubin reports to the Cabinet, which includes Moody, Patronis, the governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

Rubin, a former special counsel in the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was named in February to handle oversight of Florida’s banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan shops.

The appointment came nearly nine months after Patronis forced out Rubin’s predecessor, former Commissioner Drew Breakspear.

Patronis had cited concerns over Breakspear’s “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication,” and Patronis’ office also said he was upset over Breakspear’s handling of a sexual assault complaint between two Financial Regulation employees.

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