Hours after news of Chris Hart’s resignation from EFI sent shock waves through Tallahassee, everyone was talking about it. But no one was willing to go on the record. Even so, several insiders with knowledge of the matter provided some insight as to why Hart walked away from the high-profile position in a way that pointed the finger of blame squarely at Governor Rick Scott:
“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. This difference of opinion is of such a critical nature that I no longer believe I can be effective in my position. 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.” —Chris Hart, in resignation letter to the governor
Wow. There are diplomatic ways to bow out of a job gracefully, but this isn’t one of them. Governor’s office staffers read about Hart’s resignation on Twitter, before his resignation email to the Governor had even been opened, says one source close to the governor.
“This is bizarre, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Tallahassee, and I’ve seen a lot,” said the source.
The official story, hinted at in Hart’s own resignation letter and from other sources, is that Hart grew frustrated with the lack of a contract and was growing increasingly skeptical that EFI would emerge unscathed from the legislative session, leaving his own job in doubt. But many are openly questioning that explanation:
Everyone keeps asking why @chrishartiv quit EFI.
— Peter Schorsch (@SaintPetersblog) March 6, 2017
Both Hart and the Governor’s Office declined to comment on the matter, but some say that Hart grew frustrated with the Governor shortly after his first committee meeting with EFI board members. Hart allegedly expected Scott to make an appearance at that first meeting, but didn’t, nor did he call a single member. Some speculate that Hart may also have been bothered by the governor’s strategy to take the EFI funding fight directly into Member’s districts.
“That’s not how you win friends and influence people,” says one source who declined to be identified. “Chris Hart values his relationships within the Legislature, and some of those Members are going to remain in Tallahassee a lot longer than Rick Scott.”
But even if that is true, some say Hart’s method of resignation, without the courtesy of a heads up to the governor, could cost him in other relationships.
“Hart’s own ego is part of the problem, which led to his unwillingness to adopt the governor’s strategic priorities, and to increasing tensions between Hart and senior staffers in the governor’s office,” said one source.
“Chris isn’t the kind of guy that is going to put loyalty to the governor ahead of something he believes is a superior approach,” said another insider with knowledge of Hart’s leadership style. “At the end of the day, he didn’t technically report to Rick Scott, he reported to the EFI board, and he didn’t like the orders he was getting from Plaza level staff.”
What this means for Enterprise Florida with the start of the legislative session less than a day away is anyone’s guess, but the loss of Hart and his relationships inside the legislature is a significant blow to both EFI and the Governor’s Office.