TALLAHASSEE — Just days after John Armstrong lost his job as surgeon general, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has given him a top position in the department he had been running.
That means Armstrong, who has colon cancer, will keep drawing a paycheck and keep his state government benefits, including his subsidized health insurance.
Armstrong is now the new deputy secretary for administrative services, communications director Mara Gambineri told POLITICO Florida in an email Monday night.
That puts him in charge of the Department of Health’s budget, as well as its financing and accounting divisions. He’ll also have oversight of human resources and regulation of all the state’s licensed health care providers.
The governor’s office put out a press release Friday evening announcing Scott had received Armstrong’s resignation and had appointed Celeste Philip as acting surgeon general. On Monday, Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told POLITICO Florida that Armstrong had not submitted a written resignation but had resigned in a phone call with the governor.
Armstrong has not yet begun his new job and is currently on administrative leave, Gambineri told POLITICO Florida. She said he “continues to receive treatment for colon cancer and his health will determine the length of leave.”
State records still have him listed as surgeon general making $141,000 annually and have Philip listed as deputy secretary earning $138,000.
Armstrong resigned from his post heading the agency and was given a new position at a time when nearly 300 positions were eliminated from the state Department of Health — less than half the number Armstrong had initially asked the Legislature to eliminate.
South Florida HIV activist Michael Rajner said the new position was a move by Scott’s administration to ensure that Armstrong maintained health insurance coverage. Scott repeatedly referred to Armstrong’s colon cancer diagnosis throughout the last weeks of session when discussing his embattled health secretary.
“It’s nice to see that the governor wants [Armstrong] to continue to have access to health care while dealing with a life-threatening illness,” Rajner told POLITICO Florida Tuesday. “This same governor has denied so many families in Florida that same ability to have access to health care and continues to refuse to expand Medicaid to poor vulnerable families.”
In his new role at the agency, Armstrong replaces Marty Stubblefield, who left the department in January for a job at the Department of Financial Services. Michele Tallent has been named acting deputy secretary for administrative services and will continue serving in that capacity until Armstrong returns.
Tallent has extensive budget experience, after having served as the health and human services budget chief in the governor’s Office of Planning and Budgeting and as budget director at the state Agency for Health Care Administration. She also worked in finance and accounting at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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