Florida Prisons

Prison whistleblower cleared of wrongdoing

Prison inspector Doug Glisson was hit with six internal investigations after he testified before a state Senate committee in 2015.
Prison inspector Doug Glisson was hit with six internal investigations after he testified before a state Senate committee in 2015. Florida Senate

A Department of Corrections whistleblower who was demoted after accusing his bosses of covering up inmate abuse and agency corruption was cleared of wrongdoing Monday as a panel of law enforcement officers unanimously ruled he was wrongly targeted.

Doug Glisson, a senior investigator at the Department of Corrections, is now seeking reinstatement to his position as a supervisor in the agency’s Office of Inspector General, after a five-member Complaint Review Board concluded that the complaint against him was “unfounded.”

Glisson was demoted and docked pay by the agency in April after six internal investigations were launched against him on Feb. 3, 2015 — a day after his former boss, Inspector General Jeffrey Beasley, was grilled by a Senate committee about allegations of cover-up and corruption. Three of those investigations were sustained, without interviewing Glisson, two were dismissed and one he challenged as violating his rights under the “Officers’ Bill of Rights.”

Glisson was accused of hearing a complaint from an inmate who alleged officer-on-inmate abuse at the Franklin Correctional Institution but failed to investigate — in violation of agency procedure. He sued after the agency refused to provide a hearing, as required by law, to allow him to bring forward his allegations that the investigation was biased against him.

The department then decided that the allegation was “unsustained” but the panel of five law enforcement officers went further. The panel found that the allegation “did not rise to the level of an internal affairs investigation and therefore the finding should be unfounded.”

“He’s been vindicated,” said Ryan Andrews, one of Glisson’s lawyers who persuaded a Leon County Circuit court judge to order the agency to conduct the unprecedented hearing under the state’s Officer’s Bill of Rights. “This never should have been brought.”

Glisson is one of four inspectors at FDC 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.

In May, Glisson and another inspector who has also been demoted, John Ulm, sued FDC accusing the agency of engaging in a systemic pattern of retaliation against them. They claim that the department is punishing them because of their allegations that Beasley covered up or failed to investigate officer-on-inmate abuse and soft-pedaled an investigation into a food vendor because its former lobbyist was the governor’s general counsel.

The agency has denied the internal investigations against Glisson were retaliation and the fact they followed the whistleblowers’ discussions with the Senate Criminal Justice Committee but was merely bad timing.

"What was done was not retaliation against Doug but was really done to clear him and move past what those allegations were,'' said Michelle Glady, FDC communications director.

Meanwhile, also Monday, Glisson pursued a compliance review hearing to show that the agency intentionally sought to retaliate against him by dragging out the investigation, piling on the complaints, and failing to properly investigate them.

On May 6, 2015, Glisson was placed under oath by investigator Brian Falstrom but, during the interview, it became clear that Falstrom “had not conducted a single sworn recorded interview of the complainants, any witnesses, and had no documentation to provide to me which is required by statute to see what evidence was against me,” Glisson said under oath. 

Falstrom told the panel Monday that he attempted to keep a narrow focus on his investigation, honing in on why Glisson and Ulm did not document the allegations made by inmate George Rivera against specific officers, and he concluded those witnesses were not relevant to the case.

Glisson also claims Falstrom violated several other agency policies and procedures: The investigation was opened 180 days after the IG received the complaint; he conducted an interview with the inmate making the complaint but neither produced an audio tape nor a record of the interview, as required; he failed to interview key witnesses, and the witnesses he did interview were not under oath or recorded.

Falstrom denied most of those complaints except one: he said was told not to notify Glisson about the investigation by Beasley and his deputy, Ken Sumter.

“I start investigating and I’m told we’re not going to notice him,’’ Falstrom said. “My boss, at the time it was Jeff Beasley ... we had more than one conversation about the time ticking.”

When questioned by Lieutenant David Odom, a member of the panel, about why he would violate the law that requires that an officer be notified when he is being investigated, Falstrom answered: “These are decisions above my pay grade and above my control.”

The hearing on the allegations of intentional retaliation will continue Tuesday.

Mary Ellen Klas: meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas