In an interview with The Herald, Shani Smith said she did not verify neglect allegations because she was “never able to find a history or pattern of the mom putting her children at risk, or being a risk to her children.” Bruno had been arrested three times on charges involving drugs or alcohol, and had been cited twice for violating municipal ordinances banning open containers of alcohol. Smith said workers at the hotline did not provide her with Bruno’s full arrest history.
Jacobo, the Miami administrator, said agency policy does not require a pattern of maltreatment for an allegation to be verified.
Shani Smith closed the case without offering any services to, or requiring any supervision of, Bryan’s parents. In her case notes, Smith said Bruno had submitted to an evaluation by a local substance abuse center, which concluded she did not need alcohol treatment — though Wilkins said the evaluation has yet to be found. Smith denies making up the results of the report.
“I’m not a monster,” she told The Miami Herald. “These are not numbers to me; they’re people I interacted with, looked into their faces and felt for. We give ourselves to these cases.”
Wadsworth, who is so highly regarded in the department that she helps train other child abuse investigators, was expected to perform an agency review of Bryan Osceola’s case last fall because the boy was considered to be at high risk of further abuse or neglect. Her involvement in the case is under review, Jacobo said.
Duray Smith was Shani Smith’s direct supervisor, and he had been involved in DCF’s last Miami disaster, the February 2011 death of Nubia Barahona. Police and prosecutors say Nubia was tortured, starved and killed by her adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, as DCF investigators overlooked various warnings.
Her death sparked the appointment of a task force that studied agency failures and recommended a variety of reforms. Wilkins then launched a child welfare “transformation” that he says has led to meaningful improvements statewide.
Records show Duray Smith had a supervisory role in a report — open at the time of Nubia’s death — that the girl and her twin brother were being tied up in a bathtub.
Duray Smith’s personnel file, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows he was hired by DCF as an investigator around 2002, and resigned five years later. “I have reached a point where I feel I have completely outgrown the position of [investigator] and it is time to move on,” he wrote in December 2007.
He was rehired the following March. Records from that time say he had left the agency to move “out of state,” though he changed his mind and remained in South Florida. Smith had been a substitute teacher before he joined DCF.
Shani Smith, whom he supervised, said she was well aware that Duray Smith had a second job as a schoolteacher. “We all knew,” she said. “It was no secret.”
It was to his bosses, though. Jacobo said a review of agency records turned up no request for dual employment, and she was never made aware otherwise.
“We don’t forbid it, obviously,” Jacobo said. “But you need to get approval from your supervisor to see if it conflicts with anything we do, and to make sure there’s no conflict of interest, in general.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story posted earlier misstated the number of times Duray Smith moonlighted and the volume of hours he put in for at DCF on those days.