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Ethics panel could approve ex-Rick Scott official’s consulting work

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Can Melinda Miguel, formerly Gov. Rick Scott‘s inspector general, do consulting work involving a nonprofit doing business with the state’s child-welfare agency if she worked on a whistleblower’s report against that same concern?

Yes, according to a staff recommendation of the Florida Commission on Ethics released Wednesday. The commission is scheduled to consider the opinion at its next meeting.

Miguel left the Governor’s Office this April and now runs her own consulting service, records show. She asked for the opinion because she wants to do consulting for Casey Family Program, a foundation in Seattle, Washington that works on foster care and child welfare issues.

The project at issue includes an “assessment” of Our Kids, the nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties under agreement with the Department of Children and Families.

But Miguel was concerned about a potential conflict because she “played a role in 2011 in issuing a final whistleblower’s report” against Our Kids, she said in a June letter to Ethics Commission executive director Virlindia Doss.

Miguel, however, called her role “ministerial,” saying she mainly reviewed and signed off on the final report by the DCF inspector general’s office. Her filing did not provide details about the investigation and a DCF spokesman could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

Our Kids was partly responsible for the care of Nubia Barahona, the 10-year-old girl whose decomposed body was found in the bed of her adoptive father’s pickup truck on I-95 in Palm Beach County in February 2011. Lawmakers and Gov. Scott this year approved a $3.75 million claim bill to compensate her surviving twin brother Victor.

In a subsequent email to Chris Anderson, the ethics panel’s general counsel and deputy executive director, Doss said Miguel was “involved with a lot of investigations in her tenure.” She referred to a section of state law limiting the consulting that former state employees can do.

“Concerns of a potential of ‘feathering one’s own nest’ could exist where (an) investigation was in the course of seeing if a contractor had misbehaved,” Doss wrote. “So I thought it best for her to get an opinion.”

That opinion says her proposed work would not “trigger” any prohibitions under law: Miguel’s involvement in the whistleblower’s report in question was “limited (and) after the fact,” and noted she was not involved in the “procurement” of Our Kids’ deal with the state.

The matter is on the agenda for the commission’s July 28 meeting in the third-floor courtroom of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

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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