Prison official keeps high-paid job even as state settles lawsuit against him

Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeffery Beasley speaks to a Senate committee in March 2015.
Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeffery Beasley speaks to a Senate committee in March 2015. Florida Senate

The state takes no blame for what former Florida Department of Corrections inspector general Jeffery Beasley has done, but it is paying $800,00 to end a retaliation lawsuit brought by his former employees and is keeping him in a newly created job that pays $116,500 annually.

As “director of intelligence” at the state’s prison agency, Beasley admits that his position was created after the whistleblowers filed their lawsuits and he left the inspector general’s post last fall, according to his deposition in another pending retaliation lawsuit reviewed by the Herald/Times.

He is in charge of the department’s K-9 unit and the security threat group, among other things. He draws “special risk” designation as a law enforcement officer, allowing him to collect a higher pension when he retires. His replacement as inspector general, Lester Fernandez, makes $115,000.

At the agency that has had riots, staff turnover and numerous other problems with inadequately staffed prisons, Beasley, 42, said his new job was “created out of need.” He also testified that he is doing much of the same work with security officers as he did in his previous role.

We will be a thorn in their side. We’re not here to protect dirty officers, but if you have someone like us who was getting nailed, we can help.

former inspector Doug Glisson

Meanwhile, the three former inspectors, Doug Glisson, John Ulm and Aubrey Land who left FDC this week after it agreed to pay them each $133,000 to resolve their claims against Beasley, are forming their own consulting business, “Capitol Connections Consultants.” They will offer to serve as expert witnesses in future lawsuits against the state and advise other law enforcement officers when their employer has violated the Officers’ Bill of Rights.

“We will be a thorn in their side,” said Glisson on Friday. “We’re not here to protect dirty officers, but if you have someone like us who was getting nailed, we can help. It’s not going to be a full-time job.”

The name of the company is reference to one of the first disputes the inspectors had with Beasley. When they approached him about evidence that an officer was abusing inmates at a North Florida officer training center, they said Beasley ordered them to refrain from investigating because the director had a “Capitol connection.” They testified before a Senate committee that the connection was someone who had close ties to a person in Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

FDC has refused to comment on the lawsuit.

“The Department of Corrections has settled the lawsuit,” said Michelle Glady, FDC spokesperson on Friday. She refused to comment on why the agency agreed to settle, why it considers the $800,000 payment a good use of taxpayer dollars, why they chose not to resolve the issue a year ago when the whistleblowers agreed to end the conflict for only $25,000, and why Beasley is allowed to stay in his job.

After Glisson testified at a state Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting in February 2015, Beasley ordered six internal investigations in one day against him. In July 2016, the five-member Complaint Review Board was appointed to review Glisson’s claims that he had been demoted, docked pay and subjected to investigations that were launched without interviewing him.

After a daylong hearing, the board concluded that the complaints against Glisson were “unfounded” and the agency had wrongly targeted him.

This is the second lawsuit the agency has paid out to attorney Ryan Andrews and his FDC clients. Last year, Andrews sued the agency for failing to turn over Beasley’s internet search history as part of a public records request. A Leon County Circuit Court ordered FDC to turn over the records and pay nearly $14,000 in costs and penalties.

In a deposition taken Oct. 25, Beasley boasted: “We can do this all day, Ryan, but you’ll never find anything that shows that I retaliated against your clients.”

He also testified how he had discussed firing Glisson, Ulm and Land with FDC Secretary Julie Jones.

“There’s been countless hours wasted and spent over all these allegations and innuendos,” he said.

Andrews asked him to clarify what he meant by “wasted” and whether that meant an “inmate was murdered and it was covered up.”

He answered: “No. No. No, not — not the real stuff. I’m talking about the unfounded allegations that they’ve generated.”

Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat who has conducted his own investigation into the state’s troubled prisons system, said Friday he had not reviewed the whistleblowers’ settlement but has questions about whether the agency is doing all it can to police itself. As a former auditor, Richardson has conducted surprise inspections at prisons around the state, and he has frequently observed problems and demanded changes.

“I want every dollar to be spent in a very productive way,” he said. But as an auditor who spent a career reviewing government contracts and agencies, he said he learned that “sometimes people are just hesitant to recognize it’s time to move on. There is a huge culture within the department and it’s hard to change.”

The $800,000 award will be paid in part by the agency’s liability insurance but $320,000 will come from an “administrative trust fund,” Glady said. She added that any attempt to suggest that the money for the settlement could have been used to pay for additional staff or to pay for repairs if it finds it has the money on hand.

“That’s not how the budget process works,” she said. Under state law, an agency has the authority to go to the Legislative Budget Commission to seek approval for shift money from one account to another to pay for an anticipated need — such as hiring new staff or making capital improvements.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas