Felon-Hiring Case Highlights Discontent in Department of Revenue
Around the State
Sunshine State News revealed this week that Deon McCrimmon was hired by the department seven months after pleading guilty to a felony count of wire fraud in Georgia. The federal indictment said McCrimmon illicitly concealed an IRS back-tax bill of $139,169 and inflated her income when she applied for a home loan.
Now that McCrimmon's criminal past has come to light, the DOR's inspector general is looking into the circumstances surrounding her hiring as a "tax specialist" in 2005.
Department spokeswoman Renee Watters declined to comment specifically on the McCrimmon matter while the internal investigation is under way.
However, several DOR employees, speaking on background, tell Sunshine State News that the case exposes loose, or nonexistent, employee background checks as well as a prevailing culture of cronyism at the agency.
"McCrimmon used personal contacts to get promotions almost every year for the last six years where she didn't qualify because of a lack of years being employed with Revenue and/or experience. Once she gained promotions, she helped other co-workers who weren't qualified get higher paying jobs as well," one employee said.
A former DOR employee charged that lackadaisical vetting of applicants didn't just benefit McCrimmon.
"It will sometimes take years for [Human Resources] to get around to do a background check and check references. You would think a state agency that handles confidential information and money would be on top of things before someone gets in the door, but they're not," this former employee said.
While even service-sector employers like McDonald's routinely screen minimally skilled applicants for criminal records, DOR appeared to let its guard down with McCrimmon.
Many employers, particularly those dealing with large sums of money, reject applicants who are convicted felons. At the time of her hiring, McCrimmon was on five years' probation for her wire-fraud conviction and had been ordered by a federal court in Georgia to pay $24,775 in restitution.
At DOR -- where the application form does not specifically bar applicants with criminal records -- McCrimmon's taxation division collects more than $30 billion in taxes and fees annually.
Hiring regulations at the department call for "an inquiry using fingerprints to check national criminal records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify violation(s) of law resulting in arrests and charges made by law enforcement officials in the United States of America."
The Office of Inspector General -- which is conducting the current investigation -- administers the department's criminal history record check program by submitting requests for criminal history information to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Sources inside and outside the department told Sunshine State News that McCrimmon was hired by a panel of managers and staffers that included general tax administration program director Jim Evers, process manager Frank Medehue, process manager Deborah Maddren, analyst Lee Lyons and tax specialist Robert Hatfield.
DOR did not make these individuals available for interview.
However, one staffer, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said McCrimmon "has bragged about her 'list' of employees she is going to fire. Her manager, Deb Maddren, doesn't care how she treats the employees as long as she gets her 'numbers' to report to Jim Evers.
"Morale in Taxpayer Services is very low. Managers have stepped down to get out from under her."
McCrimmon is a "tax specialist administrator," earning $43,701 annually.
Watters said Wednesday that McCrimmon has been temporarily reassigned during the investigation.
Skeptical about the IG's internal investigation -- noting that the office is, in effect, investigating itself -- one employee suggested, "It's time we ask Attorney General Pam Bondi to give State Attorney Willie Meggs a shot at this.
"She's hurt so many good, hard-working employees while looking the other way when her groupies come in 20-to-30 minutes late every day."
Beyond McCrimmon, who did not respond to Sunshine State News' attempts for an interview, some current and former co-workers say the ax should fall on her superiors.
The Department of Revenue employs 5,100 workers. Headed by Executive Director Lisa Vickers, who reports to the governor and the Florida Cabinet, DOR carries out three major responsibilities involving billions of dollars:
- Child-support enforcement, collecting about $1.4 billion a year in payments and helping to establish paternity for more than 90,000 children annually.
- General tax administration, handling more than 9 million tax filings, processing more than $4.8 billion in receipts for other state agencies and distributing more than $1 billion in discretionary sales surtax collections to local governments.
- Property tax oversight for the assessment and collection of taxes on more than 11 million parcels statewide, with a market value exceeding $1.9 trillion.
In this year's annual report, Vickers said her agency "ensures that Florida’s tax laws are administered fairly and effectively, collecting the revenues that fund essential state and local services, and ensuring a level playing field for businesses."
The DOR reported that "despite growing workloads and budget limitations, [it] has continued to increase productivity." According to the annual report, "improvements in our audit process resulted in collections of $257 million in fiscal 2009-10, a 20 percent increase from the previous year."
In the section of the annual report titled "Our Values," the department lists its three top "character values" as "integrity, honesty, trust."
Gov. Rick Scott, through spokesmen Brian Burgess and Lane Wright, declined to comment on the situation.
"Regardless of the outcome, I don't expect the governor will weigh in on this issue," Burgess noted in an email.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.