Quintin Foust was three years into a five-year term for felony drunken driving when he died at Jefferson Correctional Institution in 2012.
Though the 52-year-old prisoner’s death was initially labeled “suspicious” by the medical examiner, Foust’s family would never learn the full details of how he died and why because, an investigator testified last month, the case was closed by the Florida Department of Corrections before inspectors could dig into what happened.
Absent a full investigation, his death was ruled as being from natural causes — even though investigators had strong suspicions that he died of medical negligence.
Foust’s case was among a handful of possible criminal cases that four sworn law enforcement officers testified were shut down by their boss, Jeffery Beasley, the Department of Corrections’ inspector general.
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One month after those officers — three of them current DOC inspectors and the fourth now a sheriff — alleged under oath that Beasley impeded their cases, at least three of them have not been interviewed by anyone looking into the matters, according to the attorney for the three.
The inspectors themselves, who risked their careers by going public, now face intense scrutiny.
The Miami Herald has learned that two of the DOC inspectors who testified last month before state lawmakers — Doug Glisson and John Ulm — have been stripped of their investigative posts and slapped with a pile of internal affairs complaints.
A third inspector, David Clark, who did not testify but publicly alleged Beasley tried to sabotage cases, has also been transferred, DOC officials confirmed Thursday. They are among nine inspectors currently under investigation, according to department spokesman McKinley Lewis.
Glisson, a supervisor who has a 20-year career in law enforcement, had a spotless history with the agency, according to his attorney, Steven Andrews. All three have been moved to DOC headquarters in Tallahassee and assigned to offices with no access to DOC records. For the most part, Andrews said, they’ve been given busy work to pass the time.
“This is the clearest case of retaliation I’ve seen in my 37 years of practicing law,’’ said Andrews, who represents Ulm, Clark and Glisson.
Those three and two other DOC investigators — Aubrey Land and James Padgett — unsuccessfully sued Beasley and the agency last year after Gov. Rick Scott’s inspector general, Melinda Miguel, refused to give them whistle-blower protection that would have shielded them from administrative consequences. They claimed that Beasley placed them under a bogus internal affairs probe last February to punish them for exposing possible criminal wrongdoing in the agency, including the full details behind the gassing death of Randall Jordan-Aparo, a 27-year-old inmate who died at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010.
The controversy comes as the Legislature considers an overhaul of the department, including a possible new oversight committee that would review agency cases.
Ulm, who has been on the front lines of investigations involving inmate deaths, drug smuggling by staff and medical negligence for years, testified last month that the “atrocities” and corruption within the agency were so systemic and widespread that the department is no longer capable of policing itself.
State lawmakers began hearings in January following a series of reports by the Herald and other media about suspicious inmate deaths, abuse and criminal misconduct in the state’s prisons.
The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating possible civil rights violations, and has made a series of arrests of corrections officers accused of brutalizing inmates or threatening their lives.
Sen. Greg Evers, chairman of the senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, questioned why the inspectors have been transferred instead of being interviewed about the cases they allege were swept under the rug by the agency.
“Maybe their concerns should be looked into before they were taken off their duties,’’ Evers said. “We’re paying investigators to do investigations, not have them sitting in an office apparently doing nothing.’’
John Tupps, a spokesman for the governor, said late Friday that there are several active and open investigations in connection with the inspectors’ testimony. He did not say if the investigations concern Beasley.
Beasley, who took over as inspector general in 2011, declined to comment. As the agency’s chief law enforcement officer, Beasley’s mission is to “protect and promote public integrity and accountability” in a system that houses 101,000 inmates. It is the largest agency in the state, with a $2.3 billion budget, and the second-largest prison system in the nation.
Corrections Secretary Julie Jones has publicly dismissed the inspectors’ concerns, saying they were complaints from “disgruntled’’ employees who wanted to be cops. All of them are sworn law enforcement officers.
DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis said that Glisson, Clark and Ulm, in their new assigned roles, are reviewing policies and procedures to determine whether the agency has the best practices in place.
“The tasks assigned to these employees are critically important to the operations of the Office of the Inspector General,’’ Lewis said in a statement.
By state law, DOC officials are not permitted to say why the inspectors are under investigation, but Lewis said the probes have nothing to do with them testifying against their boss.
Lewis pointed out that all three were reassigned on Feb. 23, well before March 10, when the inspectors testified before lawmakers.
But Andrews contends that the agency — and Beasley in particular —new that the inspectors planned to testify well before they were actually called before the Criminal Justice Committee. All three of them had previously made allegations against Beasley.
Glisson declined to comment and the Herald was unsuccessful in reaching Ulm and Clark.
The current inspectors were joined at the hearing by Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison, a former inspector. He testified that, when he was with the DOC, officials from Beasley’s office prevented him from taking evidence of criminal wrongdoing to the state attorney to review for possible criminal prosecution.
“We did have a criminal element,’’ Harrison testified. “We weren’t allowed to take that information back to the prosecutor.’’
He acknowledged that he could not recall who specifically told him to shelve the evidence, though it was clear to him it came from the inspector general.