Those permits don’t usually capture the attention of the secretary. So why now? Why did Detzner pick this case to suddenly rewrite agency policies?.
“The state has ample authority here,” Sen. Bill Nelson protested in a statement issued Monday. “Their refusal to issue the permits is just a dodge.”
It is a dodge. And it’s a mystery why Scott and Detzner decided to obstruct efforts to identify the forgotten boys. The awful abuse suffered by the inmates of the Dozier School happened years before Scott took office. Yet he and his appointee chose to shut down the investigation.
If nothing else, it seems like clumsy politics. None of the state’s other leading politicians have objected to Professor Kimmerle’s work at Dozier.
The only grumbling has come out of Jackson County, the rural, insular enclave that supplied the guards who administered the brutal beatings and surreptitious burials. Last year, some locals asked the local prosecutor to go after Kimmerle and the USF team for “grave desecration.”
While it’s hard to imagine that rural Jackson County has enough political influence to stop this investigation, it’s worth noting that Gov. Scott was up in Jackson County on Sunday to support a Republican county commission candidate.
Or it may be that Scott is worried about lawsuits — about the families suing once the dead boys are identified, though that prospect hasn’t bothered Pam Bondi, whose office would be faced with defending any civil suits.
Perhaps Scott’s lack of enthusiasm comes in reaction to the fervor shown by Sen. Nelson, a political rival, for sorting out the Dozier School mysteries. Its’s hard to imagine, though, previous holders of that office, say Charlie Crist or Jeb Bush or Lawton Chiles or Bob Graham, not seizing the issue as their own.
In 1968, Gov. Claude Kirk provided his successors the template for dealing with sadistic cruelty and unexplained deaths at the Dozier School. Kirk made a surprise visit and emerged outraged. “If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances, you’d be up there with rifles,” he said.
It was an outrage, what happened to those boys confined to that hellhole in Jackson County. And it deserves an accounting.
Instead of obstructing this investigation, Gov. Scott and Secretary Detzner should have hurried to that forsaken campus, shovels in hand, to be with Professor Kimmerle, promising answers, justice and names for those forgotten boys.