Gilzean remains silent as he takes over as head of the Orange elections

By | March 5, 2024

Glen Gilzean started his job as an elections supervisor in Orange County on Tuesday with a full day of staff meetings, taking on a role overseeing elections in one of Florida’s most Democratic counties.

Gilzean, a close ally of Gov. Ron DeSantisdeclined to answer questions from a reporter who went to the elections office to meet him Tuesday morning.

“The supervisor’s agenda is packed,” said D’Anne Mica, spokeswoman for the elections office.

DeSantis appointed Gilzean to the post on Monday, filling a vacancy left when former Democratic elections chief Bill Cowles retired in January. Gilzean, a Republican, serves as manager of the tourism oversight district at the center of DeSantis’ feud with Disney.

Gilzean’s appointment as elections supervisor will be in effect until the November election winner takes office in January 2025. Gilzean, 41, who has no experience organizing elections, is not listed as a candidate.

It remained unclear Tuesday whether Gilzean has resigned or plans to resign from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District or take a leave of absence. A district spokesperson and the board president did not answer the question. Mica didn’t answer either. Gilzean did not return an email or text message from the Orlando Sentinel.

Gilzean’s background has drawn criticism from local Democrats who in a joint statement labeled him a “loyalist” whose “top priority appears to be making Ron DeSantis happy.”

“Ron DeSantis continues to abuse the power of his office to appoint his friends and allies to elected positions for which they are not qualified so he can control every part of our state and local governments and bend our democracy to his will.” to make.” said a group of nine lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost and State Rep. Anna Eskamani.

In May, the Board of Tourism Supervisors hired Gilzean as an administrator, a job that pays $400,000 a year. The Orange County election position pays $205,000.

In a Facebook post, Gilzean wrote that Paula Hoisington, deputy district administrator, would serve as acting district administrator at the tourism supervisory district during his “unavailability.”

According to Gilzean’s employment contract, he can resign with 30 days’ notice. During that notice period, the administrator must “report to work each day and fully perform his duties” and “may not take any vacation or other leave … unless authorized by the board,” according to the agreement.

The district may relieve the manager of his duties immediately after receiving the letter of dismissal.

The agreement also includes an “exclusive services” provision that the administrator “perform all duties … on a full-time basis” and “dedicate his full efforts and attention to his duties and responsibilities in the district.”

While employed, the administrator “shall not participate in, provide services to, be employed by, or otherwise receive compensation for the services provided by any corporation or entity unless specifically approved in writing by the Chairman of the Board of Directors.” , according to the agreement.

District officials did not respond to questions about whether they received written notice of layoff or gave written approval for outside work.

As for state law, there is potential “wiggle room” in the section of the Florida Constitution that prohibits dual holdings of office, said Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University. An administrative position elected by a board may not be considered an “officer” under state law.

“There is certainly an argument to be made … that this situation does not fall under any of the prohibitions against holding dual office,” Jarvis said. “Ultimately it will be up to the court to decide what an office is and which offices fall under the rules.”

Ultimately, Jarvis said, “It really comes down to how much public backlash there is.”

DeSantis appointed Gilzean to an unpaid seat on the Florida Commission on Ethics in 2019. He resigned as chairman of that board in 2023, months after taking the tourism district’s position after a report found it was against state law for a public official to serve on the ethics board.

Before joining the tourism district, Gilzean was CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization. He has held several positions in education, including a stint as an executive for Step Up For Students, an organization that administers school vouchers in Florida.

Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed Gilzean in 2012 to fill a vacancy on the Pinellas County School Board.

He has also served in other appointed positions, including on the Reopen Florida task force overseeing the state’s rise from the 2020 COVID shutdowns and on the state’s African American History Task Force.

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