The Phoenix Flyer

DeSantis pick to be Fl surgeon general subject of UF sexual harassment investigation

By: - April 3, 2019 12:51 pm
Florida's surgeon general

Florida’s new surgeon general. Credit: University of Florida

Newly appointed Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees is already in hot water.

The New Service of Florida is reporting that Rivkees, who was appointed to his post on Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was the subject of a sexual harassment investigation in 2012 while at the University of Florida.

Rivkees, who is chairman of the pediatrics department at the UF College of Medicine, was alleged to have repeatedly told people, “If we can’t agree on this we’ll have to get naked in a hot tub and work it out,” the News Service reported.

Rivkees acknowledged making the comment and said it was meant as a joke, according to the investigation report.

The News Service said another complaint alleged that Rivkees made inappropriate remarks at an off-campus event, allegedly telling veterinary students, “Well, we have something in common, neither of us can have sex with our patients.”

Rivkees told investigators that he told the students “make sure you don’t have relationships with your patients,” the News Service reported.

Other issues in Rivkees’ past include being cited by a university auditor for not properly filing financial disclosure information and suing a former colleague for libel and slander, the News Service said.

But DeSantis is standing behind his nominee at this point.

Helen Ferre, the governor’s communications director, told the News Service that Rivkees is an “outstanding candidate for state surgeon general.”

“He made some remarks early in his tenure at UF and acknowledged them,” Ferre said, while stressing Rivkees was not found guilty of sexual harassment.

Rivkees faces a confirmation vote in the Florida Senate before the 2019 session ends in early May.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.