POLITICS

Parent locked out of governor’s meetings because of a security check

 

Parents who were invited to meet with Gov. Rick Scott last week were given a routine security clearance but at least one Tallahassee parent was surprised to learn she wasn’t safe enough to meet with the governor

TALLAHASSEE La'Tasha Reed Dullivan wanted to attend the governor's education listening tour when he arrived at her son's charter school last week. But, even though she has passed numerous state security screenings and is authorized to work with disabled children and their families, she was rejected.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement had determined Dullivan was a security risk.

“Because of confidentiality, we can’t disclose why an individual person was denied except to say each person is evaluated on a case by case basis,’’ said Gretl Plessinger, FDLE spokeswoman. She would not clarify what is deemed a security risk.

No one was more surprised to hear this than Dullivan.

Since 1993, she has passed routine Level 2 background checks as a child care worker and, since 2005, as a Medicaid provider authorized to screen young children and recommend services for the Department of Children and Families’ Early Steps program. Those background checks include fingerprinting, national and state criminal history checks, driver records and a search of her arrest record.

To be selected as one of the parents to talk to the governor, she was asked to fill out a form with her driver’s license, social security number and date of birth. Dullivan said she “didn’t think twice about it” because she has passed more stringent reviews routinely.

But when the principal at her Governor’s Academy Charter School in Tallahassee informed her that she had been rejected and couldn’t attend, Dullivan got worried.

“I thought someone stole my identity or something,’’ said Dullivan, who s left DCF in January and now trains Medicaid providers for the University of South Florida in Tallahassee.

On Saturday, she ran a check on herself through FDLE’s criminal history database. The report read: “FDLE found NO Florida criminal history based on the information provided.’’

"I assumed there were other things," Dullivan concluded. Maybe it was because she is a registered Democrat. Maybe it was because the room was full. “I am not an unsafe person,” she told the Herald/Times.

Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers blamed FDLE for rejecting Dullivan and denied they were screening parents because of their political affiliation. They have invited Dullivan to meet with the governor one-on-one on Oct. 2, she said.

“We are working the FDLE to balance their security concerns with the governor’s desire to hear from as many Floridians as possible,’’ she said. “We have worked with the principal to reach out to this parent.”

FDLE won’t release what criteria it uses to determine which parents are deemed a security risk for meeting the governor. Plessinger said that it has been a long-standing practice for FDLE to screen “anyone who meets with the governor whether its at his office, at the mansion, or in a public meeting.”

But the agency won’t elaborate on when it decides which meetings to screen and which to allow to occur spontaneously.

Dullivan said she has nothing against the governor.

“I just wanted to hear what’s happening to my child’s education so that I am prepared,’’ she said. “Not that I had a gripe -- I just wanted to listen -- but I didn’t get that far.”

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

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