A Tallahassee judge has ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections violated the due process rights of an agency whistleblower and ordered it to conduct a special hearing to review claims of retaliation against him after he accused the chief inspector general of cover-ups.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson gave the agency 30 days to hold a “compliance hearing” to allow investigator Doug Glisson to demonstrate how he believes his rights under the Police Officers Bill of Rights were violated.
Glisson, a supervisor who has a 20-year career in law enforcement, was hit with six internal affairs investigations in a single day after he told members of a state Senate committee about what he suspected were instances of cover-up and abuse at the state prison agency. During the investigations, Glisson concluded that the reviews were superficial, that the officer in charge — Inspector Brian Falstrom — was biased against him, and that the goal of the investigations was to discredit him or force him out.
Glisson protested in a six-page letter to FDC Secretary Julie Jones in May 2015. He asked for a formal compliance review hearing to go over his complaints, but was rebuffed and sued the agency.
In the letter to Jones, Glisson called for Falstrom to be removed from the investigation because, according to another investigator’s sworn affidavit, Falstrom had called Glisson an “effing whistleblower.” Only after Glisson sued last fall was Falstrom removed from the case.
Dodson ruled that Glisson was entitled to the hearing, that he had no other legal remedy and that the agency erred when it claimed it did not have to grant him a hearing. Under the law, Glisson will have the right to choose two members of the five-member compliance review board. The agency will pick two and those four will pick a fifth.
FDC spokesman Alberto Moscoso said FDC was still reviewing the ruling and would have no comment.
Glisson’s attorney, Ryan Andrews, said the ruling could have broad-ranging consequences for other whistleblowers and officers who are the subject of internal affairs investigations within the department.
While this is a victory for Mr. Glisson personally and professionally, it is also a victory for all employees of the Department of Corrections. This ruling will help all employees at DOC get what they never could before when their Officers’ Bill of Rights are violated,” he said.
The department files “hundreds of these internal affairs investigations a year and I’m not aware of them ever granting a compliance review hearing or a compliance review board in the history of the department,’’ he said. “They deny them as a matter of course, as a rubber stamp, and now they can’t do it anymore.”
Glisson is one of five FDC investigators who unsuccessfully sued the agency in 2014 after Gov. Rick Scott’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel, refused to give them special protection that would have shielded them from administrative consequences.
Glisson believes he is being punished for speaking out against former Inspector General Jeffery Beasley. He accused his former boss of improperly and unethically interfering with pending investigations.
Glisson and three others testified March 9, 2015, before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. They alleged that Beasley shut down an investigation into the death of an inmate at Jefferson Correctional Institution, ordered investigators to cover up that a doctor who had been hired by the agency had his license revoked in another state, and ordered Glisson and another inspector to tamp down an investigation into inmate abuse by a training center director because of a “Capitol connection” — someone who had close ties to a person in Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
“Mr. Glisson has been through hell since he stood up for what he believed in and made his protected disclosures regarding the suspicious death of Randall Jordan Aparo,” Andrews said. “Although it has taken time, these whistleblowers will not be kept down.”
Earlier this year, Jones reassigned Beasley to a newly created job as chief of intelligence. He continues to draw an annual salary of $116,500.
Mary Ellen Klas: meklas@miamiherald and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas