Florida DEO Secretary Ken Lawson resigns amid unemployment mess

James Call USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau.Published 10:00 AM EDT Sep 1, 2020The executive director o

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The executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has resigned.  

Ken Lawson, submitted a letter of resignation Monday to Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Earlier this year, Lawson became the head of DEO. He was sidelined when the state’s unemployment compensation system was unable to handle the millions of claims filed by Floridians out of work because of the coronavirus. 

The pandemic began in March and by mid-April only about a third of the million unemployment claims were processed. 

Back story:

  • Coronavirus cases, unemployment claims and lawsuits continue to mount in Florida
  • Bewildering computer crashes and glitches for those in Florida seeking unemployment benefits
  • Coronavirus and unemployment: Know the Floridians behind the figure

At that point, DeSantis called on the Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Sattler to fix the system. The move all but reduced Lawson to a figurehead at the agency in charge of workforce development and economic incentives for businesses. 

A little over four months later, he decided to move on.

In an email to DEO’s 1,600 employees Lawson gave no reason for his decision. 

He provided no clues in his letter to DeSantis.

“With deep love and loyalty for my home state, I have given my all to Florida and thank everyone I have worked with over the years,” Lawson wrote. 

His resignation is effective Sept. 1. 

Lawson is a former CEO of Visit Florida and was Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the administration of former Gov. Rick Scott. 

Lawson served on the DeSantis transition team before his appointment as DEO secretary.  

James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jcall@tallahassee.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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