OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Osceola County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez just announced his son's live-in girlfriend, Jennifer Soto, was promoted to the number two job in the office.
Ramirez has been questioned about a number of decisions since he took office in January, but he is defending the decision to promote her to chief deputy.
Ramirez said she is qualified for a job that will have her overseeing a staff of about 160 employees.
When asked if Soto had ever been in a position like chief deputy, Ramirez said she is learning on the job, just like him.
"The same principle is applicable to me. I have never run a department with 160 or 170 employees," Ramirez said.
It's been two months since Deputy Clerk of Courts Beau Osborne was dismissed. Since then, two more high level people, including the Human Resources director, have been let go from the Osceola County Clerk's office.
Friday, the promotion of Soto from Ramirez's executive assistant to chief deputy came as a surprise.
By Ramirez’s own admission, Soto is in a romantic relationship with his son. He said Florida laws on nepotism do not prevent the promotion.
"I did research myself and based on that I appointed her," Ramirez said.
To that end, Ramirez is within the law. According to the Attorney General's office, "the nepotism statute simply prohibits one who has the authority to employ, appoint, promote, advance, or recommend same from using that authority with respect to his or her own relatives."
Since Soto is not related to Ramirez, she does not fall under those guidelines.
"I cannot help if people do not like a situation like this. I am not in violation of the statutes," Ramirez said.