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DCF losing top child-protection official for Jacksonville region

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A top state child-protection official who reportedly had a “frat house”-management style, disparaging and berating underlings and referring to some as “ho’s,” has quit his job.

David Abramowitz was director of the Northeast Florida region for the Department of Children and Families. He turned in his resignation Wednesday, as first reported by First Coast News.

DCF Press Secretary Michelle Glady and Jacksonville-area DCF spokesman John Harrell did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A request for Abramowitz’s resignation letter and personnel info elicited a form letter Thursday morning.

He was in charge of the region last September when 51-year-old Don Spirit shot and killed his 28-year-old daughter and her six children, aged 10 weeks to 11 years old, in Gilchrist County. Spirit later killed himself.

The Spirit family had been written up 18 times by DCF investigators for reported child abuse, according to reports, and the latest abuse-hotline report was sitting on a desk at the time of the murder-suicide.

Shortly before that incident, Abramowitz had been the subject of a DCF Inspector General’s report that cleared him of creating a hostile work environment and engaging in gender discrimination.

The 38-page report is rife with allegations of Abramowitz – a previous 30-year Army officer – getting angry and throwing people out of meetings, slamming doors, telling female workers they needed to “gain weight” and teasing them about their hair styles. He joined the department in 2012.

Another employee told investigators Abramowitz had joked that former Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo was Cuban and “swam to the United States.” He apparently made the remark in front of current Secretary Mike Carroll during a meet-and-greet event held for Carroll, the report said.

But others stuck up for Abramowitz, calling him “very open, very transparent, and very involved.”

“He is willing to talk with the employees and always tries to connect with the front-line workers,” one member of the office told investigators.

Another said she could understand if people were “intimidated” by Abramowitz: “He’s big, he is loud, he is domineering, he’s brusque.”

In another incident, he told a female office worker not to wear her hair “like Lil Wayne” and openly called another “Biggie Smalls” as a nickname, the report said.

(Investigators felt compelled to add footnotes explaining that “Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. is a rap artist from New Orleans known as ‘Lil Wayne,’ ” and “Christopher G. Wallace, now deceased, was a rap artist known as ‘Biggie Smalls.’ “)

Abramowitz himself told investigators he has a “lack of filter” and sometimes says things “that if I thought about it, I probably would not say.”

“(S)ome of the questions are concerning to me because I have to re-look at myself and have to re-direct how I am going about engaging people because I am obviously going about it wrong,” he said in the IG report. “Because if I am upsetting them, in a way that is upsetting them, that is not good. That is not my intent and I was wrong.”

4 p.m. update: In a brief statement to FloridaPolitics.com, Carroll said he “appreciates Dave’s service to the department,” and appointed deputy director Pattie Medlock, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the department, as Abramowitz’s interim replacement.

Also, a copy of Abramowitz’s resignation letter, sent 6:31 p.m. Wednesday, is here. In it, he says he has the “deepest respect for our employees and the difficult challenges that they handle each day.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]

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