The state’s top juvenile justice investigator, who wrote a scathing report last year accusing one of the agency head’s closest friends of financial wrongdoing, is out of a job after a 25-year career in state government.
Last week, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters informed Gov. Rick Scott that she intends to fire her agency’s top watchdog. Inspector General Mary Roe Eubanks had held the job since 2004, and was a nearly 25-year state employee, with 10 years in state agency investigations. Eubanks was placed on administrative leave, with pay, while the termination was being approved.
On Wednesday afternoon, Eubanks ended the suspense: She wrote Walters a short note announcing her resignation, citing her desire to “have more time to spend time with my family.” Walters accepted the resignation, said an agency spokesman.
In a June 4 memo to Eubanks, Walters said the inspector general was being terminated “due to a pending investigation.” She did not elaborate on the nature of the probe.
DJJ’s spokesman, C.J. Drake, said Thursday that Walters was not, in any way, responding to political pressures, or loyalty to the friend, when she sought Eubanks’ dismissal.
Walters “did not consider taking personnel action” against Eubanks “until Ms. Eubanks became the subject of a review by the chief inspector general,” said Drake.
Eubanks had been earning $92,475.50 annually, Drake said. Under state law designed to insulate inspectors general from political pressures, agency heads may not unilaterally fire their IG’s without the approval of the governor.
Eubanks’ ouster from the department comes on the heels of one of the agency’s most controversial recent disputes: As DJJ’s top investigator, Eubanks reported that a private company headed by Vicki Lopez Lukis, one of Walters’ closest friends, had misspent more than $111,000 in taxpayer dollars intended for services to delinquent girls in agency lockups. Lopez Lukis strongly objected to the report’s findings, and complained to Gov. Scott that she had not received a copy of it before it was completed.
Under state law, the subjects of such probes are supposed to be given a copy of the agency’s findings in order to respond before the report is finalized.
In November, acting upon Lopez Lukis’ concerns, Scott ordered the DJJ Inspector General investigation withdrawn, calling it a “draft” instead of a final report. Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, has been reinvestigating the entire matter ever since.
Lane Wright, a spokesman for the governor, did not reply to requests from The Herald about the status of that investigation.
And though Eubanks’ departure suggests the governor’s office may well view the controversy far differently than the DJJ inspector general did, the Girls Advocacy Project contract nevertheless remains in peril.
When the juvenile justice department’s new budget year begins next month, the agency’s spending plan will contain no taxpayer dollars for GAP, Drake said.
“As part of our contract review process, we concluded that the services provided under the GAP contract are no longer needed,” Drake told The Herald. “Instead, we will allocate that funding to provide healthcare for youth in detention centers.”