By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Now that Gov. Rick Scott’s contentious re-election is over, a lot of previously-requested information is making its way to reporters– even though there is evidence some of the information was ready for release well before Election Day.
Among the possibly controversial documents that have since turned-up are two internal investigations conducted by the embattled Florida Department of Corrections (DOC), as well as Scott’s private email records containing state business.
According to The Miami Herald, the DOC’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel, released a report last Friday containing the findings of an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct against five inspectors who worked for the DOC and eventually filed whistleblower lawsuits against the agency.
According to the Herald,
The inspectors, who filed a whistleblower suit against the state and FDOC in August, were accused of acting without authority when they executed a search warrant involving a female corrections officer who was accused of having sex with an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution last year. The officer was later fired, but threatened to sue the agency, claiming that she was wrongly accused.
Miguel, who reports to Gov. Rick Scott, waited until after the election to release its results, although sources close to the investigation said it was completed months earlier. The report concluded that the inspectors, whom Miguel had refused to give whistleblower protection, committed no wrongdoing and that the warrant was lawfully signed by a judge. [Emphasis added]
Scott spokesman John Tupps said the report “was completed on Nov. 26, 2014, and transmitted to all appropriate parties, including the Miami Herald.”
The inspectors contended that the probe was bogus, launched by their boss, Jeffrey Beasley, in an effort to intimidate them after they had discovered, during the course of the sexual allegations at the prison, that the inspector general’s office had covered up the circumstances surrounding the 2010 death of a 27-year-old inmate, Randall Jordan-Aparo. That death is now under investigation by the FBI.
In another report from the DOC’s inspector general, The Naples Daily News finally got information about how the state agency lost two years of public records.
About two months ago, NDN reporter Matt Dixon reported that DOC said all the department’s emails ranging from January 2007 through September 2008 were destroyed in an effort to fix a hardware problem in 2012.
Because it took the agency over a year to answer Dixon’s records request, the inspector general launched an investigation into what happened.
The report was just now released, The Naples Daily News reports.
According to the newspaper,
Despite assurance the records request were being processed, records show the department knew the requested emails were destroyed on March 19, 2012, the same day it occurred. That’s nearly 20 months before the public records request was filed.
In an August email, Cary sought a mailing address to respond to the records request. The agency’s letter arrived more than two months after that email exchange.
In a statement released Monday, Interim Secretary Timothy Cannon said the response time was “unacceptable.”
“We are currently identifying technological and personnel solutions to expedite the public records process,” he wrote.
In response to follow up questions specifically about why the department waited one year to tell the reporter, a spokesman said “no wool was pulled over anyone’s eyes, no one was lied to,” and pointed out that no member of the department’s communications team was employed by the department at the time of the 2012 data destruction.
The department’s inspector general’s office was called into review the issue and determined that officials were “unable to present any documentation detailing its compliance” with the administrative rules that govern the backup of public records.
The report found that the department lacked “general IT controls, such as restoration procedures, restoration testing, expiration of backup media, and applicability to other policies.”
And these two new reports come just days after the Associated Press reported Scott’s office handed over information showing that Scott used his private email account for state business three months after the news agency filed a public records request.