Watchdog at Dept. of Juvenile Justice resigns after criticizing contractor

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The inspector general at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice resigned Wednesday after DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters told Gov. Rick Scott last week that she planned to fire the agency watchdog, the Miami Herald reported.

Last year IG Mary Roe Eubanks filed a critical investigation of Walters’ close friend Vicki Lopez Lukis, a contractor accused of financial wrongdoing.  Eubanks reported that the Girls Advocacy Project, a private firm headed by Lopez Lukis, had spent more than $111,000 in state funds on gifts for lawmakers, lavish meals, and office furniture and equipment – the latter from a company owned by a relative. The money had been intended for services to delinquent girls.

Before completing her investigation, Eubanks sent a draft to the state Department of Financial Services’ Office of Fiscal Integrity, which concluded that while no criminal activity had occurred, DJJ should recover funds GAP.  At the time, Lopez Lukis blasted the findings and told Scott – on whose transition team she had served – that she hadn’t received a copy before they were completed.  Under state law, she should have had the opportunity to respond before the report was finalized.  In November, Scott ordered the DJJ investigation withdrawn and tasked his chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, with reinvestigating the matter.

Lopez Lukis did not respond to a phone call or email from the News Service of Florida, but DJJ spokesman C.J. Drake said Eubanks “is currently a subject of an investigation by the governor’s chief inspector general. Several weeks ago, she informed Secretary Walters of her intention to resign, saying it was in the best interests of the agency. She subsequently informed the secretary that she did not intend to resign. Ms. Eubanks was then placed on administrative leave with pay with the concurrence of the chief inspector general. On Wednesday, she submitted her resignation.”  Drake said he didn’t know when Miguel’s report would be complete, and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to a query on the matter.  Drake said Walters had appointed Mark Perez, director of Domestic Security and Investigations at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as interim IG.  “He will work closely with Chief of Investigations Keith Morris and Director of Internal Audit Michael Yu during this period of transition in the IG’s office,” Drake said.  “We are grateful to FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey for allowing Mark to serve in this interim role until a permanent inspector general for DJJ is identified.”

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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.