DCF official forced out after sexual harassment claim

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A top Department of Children of Families official was forced out because of alleged sexual harassment of an employee who was paid $150,000 by the agency to settle the issue without a lawsuit and stay quiet about it, the Palm Beach Post reported via The News Service of Florida. DCF confirmed that Secretary David Wilkins decided Jamie Self, director of the agency’s Family and Community Services Office had to leave the agency after being accused of sexual harassment by employee Christie Ferris. The newspaper reported that Self hired Ferris and then had an affair with her. She claimed in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she was fired Jan. 19 that Self harassed her, sent her explicit text messages and that she believed if she didn’t have an affair with him she would lose her job. The Post, which obtained a copy of the settlement, quoted DCF General Counsel Drew Parker as saying that the agency settled with Ferris to avoid potentially larger costs of a lawsuit. “Sometimes employees do stuff that’s not right and that costs the agency money,” Parker told the paper. Wilkins knew Self from their work together at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home. After he worked there, Self was director of Christian education for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bartow. He was paid $103,000 a year and oversaw high profile parts of the agency’s operations, including the child abuse hotline and child safety oversight. Self said in a note to colleagues when he resigned that he was moving his family back to central Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.