The Everglades is sacred to native Floridians. So much so that politicians on both sides of the aisle ran on protecting it, including Jeb, his idiot brother, Mitt Romney, and even the environment-hating Allen freaking West. No politician in Florida has ever actually run against the Everglades–until now.
We were shocked in September 2011 when Rick Scott said he supported drilling in the Everglades. Today under Rick Scott, FRACKING is now a reality in the Everglades. I wrote about Rick Scott’s record and the illegal fracking that has already been done, along with the Department of Environmental Protection’s embarrassing response, on my blog last month. Scott’s corrupt DEP actually issued 10 oil and gas exploration permits for that region to the Dan Hughes Drilling Company, Breitburn, Burnett Oil, and others. The DEP, which is supposed to protect the environment, (which I shouldn’t have to say because it’s in the damn name!), was run by Scott appointee Jeff Littlejohn, the son of the Chamber of Commerce president.
The bastard had no trouble demanding the state’s leading wetlands expert approve permits even though they violated state law. He resigned earlier this month for a more lucrative job. He left saying his proudest accomplishment in defending the environment was reducing “unnecessary regulatory burdens”, because apparently every person Rick Scott appoints to an agency thinks their mission statement was written on “opposite day”.
All of this was bad enough. But as always with our crooked governor, it gets worse.
A local TV station looked at Rick Scott’s documents for a blind trust created after he won the governor’s office. Even though the account is managed without his involvement, Rick Scott knows the companies that are part of the investment. Rick Scott, who has never had an issue using his office to enrich himself, his donors, or his his big donors, apparently owns six-figures worth of stock with Schlumberger.
Sclumberger is the subcontractor who has participated in the fracking process with Dan Hughes Drilling.
The governor didn’t respond to questions, BIG surprise. But his re-election campaign spokesman did, (because that’s appropriate), by saying that the governor ensures that oil companies comply with the regulations set by…… the DEP.
Ok, maybe hiring a right-wing nutjob who made his fortune off of scamming Medicaid recipients to be our leader wasn’t the best idea we had. But surely, you would think after all of the scandals, cronyism, bigotry, corruption, record number of resignations, clear contempt for his citizens, or any of the other 220 reasons we were given that at least we wouldn’t elect him again.
You would be wrong. The latest poll shows him all tied up with Charlie Crist.
JEEBUS, what does this guy have to do? Kick a disabled kid in the teeth? (Oh wait, he actually did that..).
I’m gonna need a bigger webpage.
8:48 AM PT: As always, don’t just get angry, get active.
BTW, even though Collier Co. is GOP territory, the citizens there are so outraged by this they are organizing against Rick Scott. If I was advising Crist’s campaign, I’d tell him to speak there to support their efforts. He could simply say the truth–that if they are shocked by this now, what the hell do you think he’ll do when he has no election to worry about?
The state departments that are supposed to protect children and mentally-retarded inmates are being challenged in the wake of incidents that led to preventable deaths.
State Sen. Eleanor Sobel
First, State Sen. Eleanor Sobel accused the Department of Children and Families (DCF) of a “cover-up and a whitewash” after the agency said no records were generated during an internal investigation into a previous alleged cover-up, the Miami Herald reports.
Second, there are questions about suspicious deaths of inmates at prisons in the state that were never investigated by the Department of Corrections, the Miami Herald reports in a separate article.
Regarding DCF, the genesis of the cover-up accusation was the discovery that a regional office that covers Broward, Palm Beach and three other counties failed to write and send in reports on the deaths of 30 children known to the agency as being at risk of harm. At the time, last fall and early 2014, the Herald was known to be preparing a report on such deaths.
That report, Innocents Lost, was published in March. It said 477 children supposedly under DCF watch had died in Florida over a six-year period. The series led to legislative hearings and bills to overhaul the agency.
More recently, the Herald reported that the 30 deaths from Southeast had been withheld from the total. DCF Deputy Secretary Pete Digre was assigned to investigate.
DCF Deputy Secretary Pete Digre
When he finished, Digre said Regional Administrator Dennis Miles may have violated the letter of the law, but didn’t intentionally “shield information from anyone,” the Herald reported. DCF Secretary Mike Carroll gave Miles two days of suspension without pay.
“I can assure you that no information was destroyed, and no child deaths were unaccounted for,” Carroll said.
When the Herald tried to obtain the records of the investigation, Digre and Carroll said there were not any — nothing on paper, nothing digital.
Sobel, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Children, Family and Elder Affairs Committee, said the agency is engaging in a huge cover-up to preserve its public image. “They are obstructing information, they are obstructing justice, and they are obstructing transparency,” she told the Herald.
Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, agrees. “I don’t believe the department can, in good conscience, say they conducted an investigation if no paperwork was produced,” she told the Herald.
Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring
As for the Department of Corrections, the Herald recounts a number of suspicious inmate deaths over the years, most recently, a scalding death of a mentally retarded inmate in the shower, and raises questions about why DOC has failed to carry out investigations afterward. The warden of the facility in which the scalded inmate died had been in trouble previously when a suspicious death occurred at a different prison, the Herald reports.
is a political consultant and new media publisher based in St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott deserves some credit for being one of the loudest critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the scandal at the Veterans Administration.
Last week, Scott announced that Florida is suing the VA to grant state health inspectors access to VA hospitals. For more than a month, the Obama administration denied state health inspectors access, setting the stage for a protracted court battle.
Scott — probably correctly — points out that state health inspectors could have discovered the fraud and mistreatment of veterans before the scandal became so widespread.
“Transparency and accountability are critical to supporting our veterans, and this suit will fight the federal VA’s continued practice of stonewalling our inspectors,” said Scott in a press statement last week.
As part of his criticism of the Obama administration, Scott was one of the first elected officials to call for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki after the federal agency’s Office of Inspector General released an initial report finding that delayed medical care, as well as efforts to hide records, was “systemic” throughout the veterans’ health system.
“To date, Sec. Shinseki has refused to step down, our inspectors continue to be turned away, and none of the information we’ve asked for has been provided,” Scott said last week.
What finally did in Shinseki was the accusation that the VA altered records to indicate that wait times were shorter than they actually were in order to cover-up malfeasance that led to veterans’ deaths.
If that accusation proves true, Scott was correct to call for Shinseki to step down.
One question remains:
Will Scott be as vocal about the scandal at his Department of Children and Families (DCF) as he has been the scandal at the VA?
According to Carol Marbin Miller via a blog post from Mary Ellen Klas, the Miami Herald was finishing a tally of Florida child abuse and neglect deaths last November among families that had previously come to the attention of DCF. The count was undertaken as part of a project called Innocents Lost. To track the number of dead children, which soared to new heights in recent years, reporters relied on public records, including incident reports.
Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that starting at least as early as last November, as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems in preventing the deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books — ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.
It remains unclear if the missing records were a deliberate attempt to obscure the deaths or suppress numbers in a series of articles emphasizing DCF mistakes.
“I am not certain yet,” new DCF secretary Mike Carroll tells the Herald. “I hope that’s not the case. I have made it clear to folks that we are not in the business of hiding information.”
In an effort to clarify, Carroll said Southeast Region administrators ceased filing the required reports for a minimum of five months while developing new reporting tools. These so-called “phantom deaths” began sometime after September 2013.
As part of its reporting, the Herald learned that Leslie Chytka, a DCF child abuse and quality assurance specialist, wrote in an agency email April 2 outlining 30 child deaths without corresponding incident reports — a violation of DCF rules requiring reports to be completed “within one working day” of a child’s death.
She then instructed staff in the Southeast Region to file reports for each of the 30 deaths, which was done quickly. Subsequent accounts detail “many prior” incidents where the agency was involved with the families of the dead children.
Regardless of the explanation from DCF, it is clear that the agency altered records in an attempt to cover up a scandal, you know, like what allegedly happened at the VA.
Scott was out front in his criticism of the VA, yet he is silent today about DCF.
How is it that Rick Scott can call for Shinseki’s resignation because the VA altered damning treatment records, but he’s not demanding the resignation of his own DCF secretary when that agency altered records to hide child deaths?
By CAROL MARBIN MILLER
cmarbin@MiamiHerald.comJune 1, 2014
At 2 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2013, a Riviera Beach mom woke up to find her newborn baby’s lips were purple. Blood and milk oozed from the girl’s nose. She had stopped breathing.
The baby, authorities say, likely was accidentally smothered to death by her mother, who placed the girl in bed with her, and three other children — a practice known as “co-sleeping” that can be lethal to infants.
Child welfare investigators had been involved with the family four times before the infant’s death.
An investigator prepared an incident report on the baby’s death later that day and emailed it to a supervisor.
The paper trail ended there.
Kimberly Welles, an administrator at the Department of Children & Families’ Southeast Region, deleted the incident report, email records show. And she instructed the supervisor who wrote it, Lindsey McCrudden, to deep-six it, as well.
“Please do not file this in the system. No incident reports right now on death cases,” Welles wrote in an email that day. “Please withdraw this and thanks. Will advise why later.”
Last November, the Miami Herald was finishing a tally of Florida child abuse and neglect deaths among families that had previously come to the attention of DCF. The count was undertaken as part of a project called Innocents Lost. To track the number of dead children, which soared to new heights in recent years, reporters relied on public records, including incident reports.
Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that, starting at least as early as last November as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems preventing deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books — ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.
The incidents were in DCF’s Southeast Region, encompassing Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Broward — the county cited by the Herald as having the most reported deaths by abuse or neglect. wwwDCF’s new secretary, Mike Carroll, said he has dispatched his top deputy, Pete Digre, to look into the missing records.
Secretary, Mike Carroll
Carroll’s initial assessment of the matter: “Was it ill-advised? Absolutely. Was it a mistake? Absolutely.”
But as to whether the missing records amounted to a deliberate attempt to conceal deaths or suppress numbers in a series of articles highlighting DCF blunders, Carroll said: “I am not certain yet. I hope that’s not the case. I have made it clear to folks that we are not in the business of hiding information.”
Southeast Region administrators say they ceased filing the required reports for at least five months because they were in the process of developing a new reporting tool, Carroll said.
He added: “There is no evidence that makes me think there was a conspiracy to withhold information … I don’t have anything that shows me this was done with ill intent.”
Carroll reaffirmed previous pledges to transform his agency into one of the most open and forthcoming in the United States, beginning with the online posting of “every single death report.”
Streamlining and speeding up the availability of agency information, Carroll said, will not only allow DCF to quiet its critics — it may help the agency improve its performance.
“We have to get better at what we do,” Carroll said. “If DCF had contact with a child, we should have zero child deaths with those families.”
Rash of deaths
Reporters on March 31 requested all child death incident reports statewide since Nov. 1, roughly when the Herald’s gathering of death reports had concluded. As DCF prepared to fulfill the records request, it discovered a strange new development: From at least November onward, the Southeast Region apparently had stopped filing incident reports, though more than two dozen child deaths had occurred in the region, according to the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline.
On April 2, a DCF child abuse and quality assurance specialist, Leslie Chytka, wrote in an email that she had found 30 child deaths with no corresponding incident reports — a violation of agency rules that say such reports must be completed “within one working day” of a child’s death. She instructed staff in the region to file reports for all of the 30 deaths.
That led to another email, from another staffer, with the title: “the upcoming rash of incident report deaths.” In it, DCF quality assurance manager Frank Perry wrote: “Disregard the next thirty or so incident reports that will be posted in the next day or so. They are child deaths we are aware of but are not in the … system. I have been asked to create these incidents so they are recorded.”
And create them he did — very quickly. The reports, filed by Perry on April 3 and April 4, are unlike any of the of the 145 or so the Herald received from the rest of the state at that time: They were largely devoid of information. Many of the Perry reports consisted of four sentences or fewer and offered no information, or scant information, regarding each family’s history with DCF. Such information is customarily provided in an incident report.
Only one child death incident report from the region included unredacted details of the family’s history with DCF. That one blamed the death on a Miami judge who ignored an agency recommendation about where the baby should live..
Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2014/06/01/5182402/child-deaths-kept-off-the-books.html#storylink=cpy
The Florida Department of Children and Families’ new secretary promises to take a sharp turn away from the secrecy that has put too many children in danger — and may have cost some their lives.
That’s laudable. But for the sake of abused, neglected and abandoned children across the state, Gov. Rick Scott and legislators should ensure that Secretary Mike Carroll follows through on his promises.
Indeed, DCF’s first reaction to the Miami Herald’s recent series detailing the deaths of 477 children was predictable — and wholly unacceptable.
The Herald’s series “Innocents Lost” detailed the deaths of children – including eight in Bay County – left in homes known to be troubled, often with inadequate follow-up or even willful blindness to the presence of dangerous, violent adults. Following its publication, DCF officials choked off access to full reports of child deaths. They redacted key details, including accounts of the agency’s prior contact with families where abuse or neglect was suspected. Some of the reports requested by the Herald in recent months were returned with all but one or two sentences blacked out.
During the recent legislative session, the Herald reported, DCF staff also quietly pushed for legislative changes that would have injected vagueness into statutory language requiring prompt reporting of child deaths, killed a key oversight committee and done away with protocols meant to focus immediate attention on suspicious deaths.
Those efforts to block transparency ultimately failed. Inspired by the Herald’s reporting, the Legislature sent a comprehensive reform bill to Scott. He should sign it. But even without the new law, DCF should acknowledge that more transparency is essential.
Indeed, it’s hard to see why the agency fought for obscurity. Florida’s failure to protect vulnerable children stems largely from efforts to conduct child protection on the cheap, stinting on services — such as child care, substance-abuse treatment and mental health services — that can help heal broken families before tragedy strikes. And for every dead child, there are countless others who grow up with serious, societal costly problems that might have been prevented with the right kind of family support.
Unflinching honesty about child deaths is paramount to fixing the problems in the system. It fosters trust that DCF will use every resource available wisely and effectively to help protect children.
On Monday, his first day on the job as DCF’s new secretary, Carroll vowed that the agency would rededicate itself to that kind of transparency. He’s creating a high-level position in his department that will oversee all child deaths. “Our goal is to increase awareness so that communities across the state can identify where additional resources and efforts are needed to assist struggling families,” he wrote in a memo announcing the changes.
It’s a commendable commitment, but Floridians have heard these sorts of promises before. This time, things must be different — and if Carroll doesn’t follow through, Scott and state lawmakers should be prepared to force more openness.
These statistics and detailed reports are grim. But they are endangered children’s only chance to be heard — before even more of their voices are silenced forever.
With a little luck — and a lot of legislative backbone — the children in care of the Department of Children & Families will be better shielded from harm by the time state lawmakers turn out the lights on their two-month session in Tallahassee on Friday.
And if that’s the case, it’s because most lawmakers were likely shamed, embarrassed or dragged into doing something because of the Miami Herald’s eye-opening, stomach-churning series Innocents Lost. That was the intent.
But Innocents Lost has shaken loose an unintended consequence, too: DCF is, basically, hiding the true number of children who have died at the hands of abusive or neglectful caretakers. It’s an insidious — and, incredibly, official — policy that should end immediately. Lawmakers must make sure that it does on this final day of the session by inserting a mandate for transparency, accuracy and urgency in reporting child deaths.
Again, DCF’s leaders are talking the talk about keeping children safe. But they are furiously backpedaling from that stance — and last week were working overtime to weaken the more-stringent rules of operation that Senate lawmakers rightly imposed.
DCF, showing that it has learned little from the comprehensively reported deaths of 477 children — it’s more now — sought to strip the child-safety language from the Senate bill aiming to force the agency to more carefully monitor children it leaves in at-risk homes. It also sought to get rid of a layer of oversight of the department relating to child deaths, eliminate language that would have tightened child-safety protections and deep-six a requirement that members of DCF’s Rapid Response Teams travel to the site of a child’s death to conduct a case review.
During a year in which lawmakers are drooling over the state’s $1.2-billion surplus, DCF — and Gov. Rick Scott — insist that too many of these provisions to keep children alive are just too expensive. The irony is rich, isn’t it?
Commend state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the bill’s sponsor, heavy-lifter Sen. Denise Grimsley and their colleagues for swatting down DCF’s foolish attempt and unanimously approving the stronger bill. Miami-Dade Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, however, warrants a swat himself for filing that 140-page amendment to water down the bill.
DCF’s clampdown on transparency and disclosure is simply, and sadly, more of the same. In advance of the stories of the 477 children who died on DCF’s watch being published, the agency curtailed the scope and the detail of child deaths by delaying the release of official incident reports and making sure that they were as terse as possible.
As reported by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, last fall, an administrator for South Florida and the Treasure Coast stopped filing the required “critical incident reports” to DCF headquarters. After the stories were published, he belatedly submitted the files — some months old — of more than 20 children who died.
Administrators now delete what they deem confidential information from public records — including most details of a child’s death. They harm themselves by failing to include critical details. Overly exuberant redactions make it impossible for the public to gauge DCF’s performance.
DCF’s newly appointed leader, Mike Carroll, clearly has his work cut out for him. So does the Legislature. House lawmakers failed to vote on the Senate bill Thursday. They must not squander their last opportunity to get it right and save children’s lives.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/01/4092463_last-chance-to-get-it-right.html#storylink=cpy
The primary goal of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the safety net that protects young children from abuse, neglect, and abandonment, is straightforward: “Safely stabilizing and preserving families; safely reunifying families; and safely creating new families.” Most would agree that this is a worthwhile objective, but I, and many others who are involved with the Department of Children and Families, do not always believe that this goal is being met or supported. Throughout the past decade, there have been many instances when DCF has failed to check in on homes that had severe warning signs of abuse, resulting in unsafe living conditions, death, and sexual abuse brought upon by foster parents, adoptive parents, and biological parents or guardians.
In 2012, 432 Florida children died of abuse and neglect. In response to the deaths, a member of the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee stated, “It pains me that if the right people had been helping those families, a lot of the deaths could have been prevented.” Most recently, DCF has been under fire after a young Fitchburg boy went missing after a social worker and supervisor failed to follow visitation procedures while the family was being monitored by DCF. Police now think the mother of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, along with her boyfriend, kidnapped and murdered her son, whose body was recently discovered. This is only one of many disturbing instances in which the once thriving department has failed.
These types of occurrences make you shake your head and wonder how a government-run agency can place children back in their biological homes when there are extreme signs of abuse. The DCF should be acting in the best interest of the child, which is not always family reunification. A drastic change in policies, procedures and red tape needs to occur in order to save the lives of the 397,000 children in United States foster care today.
Definitive decisions need to be made by the DCF and by judges who are responsible for interpreting these important laws. If there is even a hint of suspicion, action should be taken to remove the child from the home immediately. That being said, if a child is removed from his or her home, he or she should not be lingering in the system for years. Most often, children in the foster care system relocate to over eight different foster homes until they age out of the system at 18, creating uneasiness, confusion, anger, and depression. Children should be placed in a permanent and healthy foster home in order for them to continue to thrive. Speaking from first hand experience, you will not find a happy, blonde, blue-eyed child in a foster home. I have witnessed children with attachment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, drug addictions, and physical abuse. These children need not only a roof above their heads, but an advocate and protector to follow through with the services that they so require and deserve.
Current Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump says that investigators found 25 cases in which the addresses of many Massachusetts foster homes, adoptive homes, and others involved with the Department of Children and Families matched those of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders. This is an extremely high-risk placement that is dangerous for all children involved. Though DCF claims there were no reports of any abuse, this remains completely unacceptable. The pure carelessness and negligence shown by those in DCF when addressing the living conditions and situations for thousands of these children is a major issue. Scheduled monthly home checks should be in place for families and homes that the DCF believes to be dangerous for children.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be living in a safe, healthy environment that allows us to thrive in all that we do, we cannot simply shrug our shoulders over the fate of those who are not as lucky.
ORLANDO, Fla. —Officials from Orange County Public Schools, the Department of Children and Families and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office knew of Jennifer Fichter’s alleged misconduct, but state education officials were not notified, allowing Fichter to teach in Polk County.
Fichter was arrested last week after she admitted to a sexual relationship with a child in Polk County. Fichter allegedly admitted that she became pregnant with the child’s baby, but had an abortion, officials said. She was arrested at her home and charged with six counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Fichter is an English teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy.
Prior to her alleged romance with the Polk County student, Fichter taught language arts at Robinswood Middle School in Orange County from August 2007 until Dec. 19, 2008. Orange County Public School officials started investigating Fichter after a teacher filed a complaint accusing her of discussing her feelings for an eighth-grade male student and texting the student.
According to a Sheriff’s Office report, deputies interviewed the eighth-grade student who said Fichter had texted the student about her feelings about 40-50 times. School officials notified DCF officials, according to the Sheriff’s Office report.
Fitcher reportedly told that teacher “she felt as though the student was her boyfriend and that he made her melt.”
Video: Polk teacher who had sex with student accused of misconduct in Orange County
According to the report, both the teacher who filed the complaint and the eighth-grade boy told school investigators Fichter “texted a student a message that said that she ‘was going to smash’ the student,” and that “Fichter had asked a student if he wanted to be her baby.”
Public Schools Spokeswoman Kathy Marsh said Monday that the county “did not report the case regarding Fichter to the state Department of Education.”
Since the county did not inform state officials, Fichter was able to get a teaching job in Polk County, Florida Department of Education officials said last week.
Following the allegations made against Fichter, public school officials in Orange County told all employees that “No employee of the Orange County Public Schools should engage in any texting or other social media with any OCPS student,” unless the student is the employee’s child or the information is related to a class, athletic or extracurricular activity, Marsh said.
Polk County school officials said last week that they expect Fichter to be fired this week.