Senate Makes Quick Work of Protections Against Sex Offenders

By: Sunshine State News | Posted: March 4, 2014 6:40 PM
Diena Thompson

Diena Thompson, center, mother of 7-year-old predator victim Somer Thompson / Credit: Colin Hackley

The Florida Senate made safeguarding Florida's most vulnerable its first order of business on opening day, voting unanimously to pass four major sexual predator bills.

The bicameral, bipartisan effort to strengthen protections against sexual offenders is a component of the joint 5-point Work Plan Florida 2014 agenda announced in January by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

“The Senate stood together today to declare Florida as ‘scorched earth’ for sex offenders,” Gaetz said. “Our goal is to keep sexual offenders off our streets and away from our children, and this legislation provides important tools to help law enforcement and our communities be prepared, informed, and engaged.

“We recognize government’s fundamental duty to protect the most vulnerable among us,” continued Gaetz. “I am grateful for the dedication Sens. Grimsley, Sobel, Bradley and Evers have shown in moving this important package through the Senate and look forward to sending it to Speaker Weatherford and then to Gov. Scott.”

Diena Thompson, mother of Somer Thompson, traveled from her home in Jacksonville to witness the passage of the Senate bills. Somer Thompson was abducted in 2009 while walking home from school and later murdered. Since her daughter’s death, Ms. Thompson has become an advocate for increasing protections against sex offenders and sexually violent child predators.

The four bills are these:

SB 522 by Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, creates an “arrest notification program” to notify DCF when an offender, previously held at the Florida Civil Commitment Center, is arrested and convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony. The bill further requires the state attorney to refer the rearrested offender for civil commitment.

The legislation also allows members of the multidisciplinary team that currently evaluates offenders considered for civil commitment to consult with a state attorney, a law enforcement officer, and victim’s advocate.

Additionally, SB 522 expands requirements for DCF release notifications to include the sheriff of the county in which the offender intends to reside as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“We want to make sure Florida remains the best place to live, work, raise a family and retire. A crucial part of this effort is to provide our communities with tools that help families protect innocent children from these vicious criminals,” said Grimsley. “These bills go to great lengths to seal cracks that have allowed many sex offenders to slip under the radar and harm Floridians, and I am proud to see them pass off the Senate floor.”

SB 524 by Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, requires a person be defined as a sexually violent predator and be subject to civil confinement after a finding by two or more members of a multidisciplinary team, and requires higher education institutions to tell students about a sexual predator’s presence on campus.

“This landmark legislation will take concrete steps to halt the horrific tragedies facing innocent children and adults. With these new laws, we will do a better job of protecting our neighborhoods,” said Sobel. "Additionally, we are making sure our college and university and other post-secondary students have the opportunity to be informed about the presence of sexual offenders in the academic environment.”

SB 526 by Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, increases the length of sentences for certain adult-on-minor sex offenses and also prohibits incentive gain-time for offenders convicted of certain sex offenses. The legislation suspends (tolls) post-release supervision of offenders while in Department of Children and Families' (DCF) custody as part of the civil commitment process and requires the court to order community supervision (split sentences) after release from prison for certain sex offenses.

“Recent events have shown we need to do more to keep these criminals away from our children. Through this legislative package, the Florida Senate has taken steps necessary to ensure sex offenders are kept behind bars for longer periods of time, and that once they are allowed back into society, they are closely monitored,” said Bradley.

SB 528 by Greg Evers, R-Baker, makes a number of changes to the sex offender registry requirements. The bill creates a process for relevant agencies to be notified of an order granting a registrant’s name-change petition and for informing FDLE and law enforcement agencies when a registrant whose name was legally changed fails to meet requirements for obtaining a replacement driver license or identification card.

The bill also requires a registrant to report specified information on vehicles the registrant owns and vehicles owned by a person who resides at the registrant’s permanent residence, Internet identifiers (prior to their use), palm prints, passports, professional license information, immigration status information, and volunteer status at a Florida institution of higher education. SB 528 also requires registrants who are unable to secure or update a driver license or identification card with DHSMV to report any change of residence or change of name within 48 hours after the change.

Further, the bill requires registrants to report information regarding their intention to establish a residence in another country. 

“I am proud to stand with the rest of the Florida Senate in strengthening protections against sexual offenders,” Evers said. “Through an enhanced registration process, our communities and law enforcement will be provided with more information, increasing communication and resources available to law enforcement and thereby decreasing loopholes in our criminal justice and civil commitment systems.”

While the Senate was passing legislation to protect Florida’s vulnerable, the House of Representatives heard the Florida GI Bill, which aims to make Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation.

Gaetz praised Speaker Weatherford as a full partner with the Senate in increasing safeguards against sex offenders and pledged similar collaboration with the House in passing the Florida GI Bill, which will be heard in the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Thursday.

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

Brian Maday
12:00PM MAR 10TH 2014
1. Scott has done what he said he would do. Great to have an HONEST Governor!
2. Crist deserves all he's getting
3. Sink has COST Florida almost $100 million, all together.
4. DAVE JOLLY will be a GREAT Congressman.
why don't parents demand a real fix
4:15PM MAR 7TH 2014
So, why doesn't the people of Florida demand a real fix to this massive movement of child predator's within our law enforcement, teachers and firemen? Just today a teacher is arrested for watching a child undress on several occasions over the last months.Now they are going to charge him for failure to report his own self! More laws are nothing as long as everybody is too gutless to call out these perverts when they know fair well what they are and what they are doing. Don't know if anyone is paying any attention to the MSM anymore, but if it was for news of cops, teachers and firemen getting arrested for something they wouldn't have any news anymore!
criminals in charge
12:37PM MAR 6TH 2014
Senate President Mike Haridopolos steered millions to company with connections-

When a politically connected company was in danger of losing a $9.4 million no-bid contract with the state, Senate President Mike Haridopolos came to the rescue of the outfit — a firm that employs his good friend and political benefactor as a lobbyist.
Haridopolos staved off the threat to the deal with the Department of Juvenile Justice and quietly steered $6 million in additional dollars to the company, despite the vigorous objections of agency leaders and top Republican senators.

The move allowed Evidence Based Associates, a Washington-based probation program, the exclusive contract to handle the state effort to divert at-risk youth from costly prison beds into community programs. The company kept the business despite recent reports that it had failed to comply with key terms of the agreement — and to the chagrin of a long list of providers who wanted to compete for the work.

The company's lobbyist, Frank Tsamoutales, is a Brevard County Republican who has been a financial backer of Haridopolos since the Brevard County legislator was first elected to office in 2000. He went to work for EBA in April 2011, earning between $20,000 and $29,000 in the first year, the same year Haridopolos became Senate president.
The investment paid off.

When a legislative conference committee decided it was time to lower the cost of the project, lawmakers wrote language into the budget ordering the DJJ to rebid the contract after eight years with EBA. That's when Tsamoutales spoke to Haridopolos.

The final budget signed by Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon deleted the requirement that the contract be put to bid.

Haridopolos referred questions about the matter to his spokeswoman, Lyndsey Cruley, who said a health services exemption allows DJJ to forgo competitive bidding of the contract, and that EBA earned the work with a "proven track record of positive results."

Cruley said no one in the Senate exercised improper influence over the contract dollars.
"The Senate in no way steered that contract toward EBA," Cruley said. It was juvenile justice administrators, she added, who chose not to exercise their authority to seek competitive bids.

But lawmakers who opposed the contract consider it a gift from one of the state's most powerful legislators to one of his closest friends.
"He is as close to President Mike Haridopolos as any lobbyist could be," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, referring to Tsamoutales. [Now Pasco County Tax Collector thanks to Rick Scott] – they had to get rid of honest people like Sen. Mike Fasano, Sen. Ronda Storms, Senator Paula Dockery, Senator Nancy Argenziano and all the other honest ones!
Fasano's outspoken opposition to Haridopolos' agenda cost him his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, which controls the budgets of several agencies. He now believes his opposition to Tsamoutales' no-bid contract contributed to the Senate president's animosity toward him.
Long contract history

Haridopolos and Tsamoutales have a history of helping each other out. One of Tsamoutales' clients and closest friends last year paid Haridopolos $5,000 a month — $60,000 a year — to be a consultant. Haridopolos earmarked $20 million in state money for a biomedical development sought by another Tsamoutales client.
Tsamoutales made no apologies for appealing to his longtime friend to stop what his fellow lawmakers had done. "That was our job,'' he said.
But Haridopolos didn't just give his client a chance to hang on to a contract one more year. He encouraged Senate budget leaders to steer another $10 million to the program in recognition, Tsamoutales said, of a job well done. "Performance counts," the lobbyist said.
Legislators whittled that $10 million down to $6 million.
The probation contract belonged to EBA long before Haridopolos rose to power. Indeed, since EBA was first awarded the no-bid contract in 2004, DJJ renewed it twice without having to go through a competitive bidding process, using an exception to the state's contracting rules that pertains to "health services."

EBA oversees the probation effort, but all the direct care and supervision is subcontracted to other groups, records show. It also knows how to play the lobbying game. Before it hired Tsamoutales in 2011, its go-to lobbyist in the Legislature was Esther Nuhfer, a close friend of then-House budget chief and now U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami.
The results of the program have been laudable. State auditors at the Office of Program Policy Analysis hailed the diversion program as so successful at keeping at-risk kids out of expensive residential detention facilities that it concluded that the contract saved the state $51.2 million between 2004 and 2010. But in the last year, Fasano and others began raising questions.

In an Aug. 17 letter to the Department of Juvenile Justice, Fasano said he was surprised to learn the contract had never faced a competitive bid and, despite the program's success rate, he urged the department to hold the contract "to a higher level of scrutiny." He ordered that it be "either immediately canceled and properly rebid to ensure the public's trust" or handled in-house.
DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters agreed and, in a Sept. 16 letter to Fasano, said "upon closer examination, we have determined that the use of this exemption from competitive procurement may not be in the best interest of the state."

Strong call for rebid

Unlike most of DJJ's contracts with private providers, EBA's agreement with the state allows the company to evaluate its own performance. DJJ does routine contract monitoring.

The agency's most recent review of the contract showed that some of the company's subcontractors have fallen short of key provisions that two-thirds of the program's clients remain out of jail, and that no more than 40 percent of its graduates commit new crimes.
Some of the efforts served far fewer youth than the contract called for, as well.
Walters followed through on her assurances to Fasano, and sought interested bidders. By January, the agency had heard from 11 other companies, some of whom said they could reduce the amount of money spent on administration. Legislative budget leaders inserted a requirement that the agency bid out the entire contract— the $9.4 million original contract, which was set to expire in the fall of 2013, and the additional $6 million. When the first draft of the budget omitted a requirement that the $9.4 million contract be put up for bid, Sen. Ronda Storms objected.

"If it hasn't been rebid since 2004, you can't convince me there's not a better deal out there unless I see it for myself,'' said Storms, R-Valrico, during a Feb. 8 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee.
"We agree with you,'' DJJ's chief of staff, Christy Daly, told the committee.

Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican and a key Senate leader, also recommended the contract face competition and urged the agency to consider cutting out the middleman.
Tsamoutales said Tuesday there was "no intention on the Legislature's part" to put the contract out for a bid and "the governor's office went along" because "the program has saved taxpayers millions over the course of this contract." He said the Legislature's reason for adding the extra $6 million was "expanding the contract would expand the savings."
Storms, who announced this spring that she will not seek re-election to the Senate, called the situation "just nauseating."
"We are giving money to people who are not producing the right (results),'' Storms said, "and we are pouring in millions of dollars."

And they will say "oh but Senate President Mike Haridopolos is gone now" and we have all new leadership! Yes we do, all trained by the same bunch of criminals that has been "ruining" Florida since Jeb Bush moved into the governor's mansion - just after the removed the body of former Governor Lawton Childs.
Friends in High Places!
8:41AM MAR 6TH 2014
Deletion of One Word in Welfare Bill Opens Foster Care to Big Business - But a closer look reveals a deeply troubled history, and a closer look at the little-noticed change engineered by its founder, Kenneth M. Mazik, shows that it sharply alters Government policy on care for the poorest children. In the mid-1970's they dropped the “NON” from Non-Profit. That small alteration is swelling the wave of business interest in the poor that has swept national corporations traded on Wall Street as they move deeper into sectors traditionally left to religious and philanthropic groups, public agencies and mom-and-pop operations.

The change has opened the way for for-profit orphanages to compete for the billions of dollars that the Government spends each year to support poor children who are taken away from homes judged unfit. It comes at a time when many experts predict that welfare changes will push thousands of children from their homes and into the care of the state.
Historically, only foster families or nonprofit institutions, mostly charity-based, were eligible for this money. It is now the last unlimited pool available for poor children.

The change was made without debate, unlike other measures in the sweeping welfare legislation signed into law last year. Through the efforts of the company, a single word -- ''nonprofit'' -- was deleted from an obscure paragraph of the 400-page bill that dismantled six decades of poverty policy. That small alteration is swelling the wave of business interest in the poor that has swept national corporations traded on Wall Street as they move deeper into sectors traditionally left to religious and philanthropic groups, public agencies and mom-and-pop operations.
The companies that stand to benefit from the one-word change include managed mental health care giants, like the $1 billion Magellan Health Services, and youth-care chains like the (at the time) 2,500-bed “Youth Services International”, started by the founder of the quick oil-change franchise Jiffy Lube, who grew up in an orphanage himself. Most were built on other government money, including Medicaid and state foster care dollars.

Complaints detail abuse at Lake Facility for disabled

Carlton Palms Education Center a Lake County halfway house and school for severely disabled people is in trouble after a series of complaints that residents were being beaten, choked and dragged across the floor.
The incidents were detailed in a complaint state officials filed in court this month along with a petition that Carlton Palms Education Center stop accepting new patients.

The home was established in 1987 by Ken Mazik, who sits on the board of the facility's parent company in Delaware, GI Advo Holdco Inc. Mazik is also listed as the president or director of several Mount Dora-based companies, according to state records.

Mr. Mazik refused to talk to a reporter or allow a visit. But through Brian Murphy, the vice president of the company, now known as Advoserv, he denied that children had been maltreated or that staff was short and “attributed the allegations to disgruntled employees.” Two of them, speaking on the condition that their names be withheld, acknowledged that they themselves had at times left severely self-abusive or aggressive children in physical restraints for hours because they had too many children in their care.

Mr. Mazik and other supporters of the change portray it as a minor adjustment that ''levels the playing field'' between nonprofit and for-profit institutions competing for the same children. Companies like his have always been able to get other kinds of Federal money, but not to tap into the increasingly important child welfare pot.

Complaints that the center's staff abused disabled residents are nothing new to the home, which is tucked away in a remote orange grove just outside Mount Dora. Other complaints, dating back to 2010, detail incidents of a staffer knocking out a resident's tooth, a resident being tripped and another beaten over the head with a plastic bin until bloody.
Records with the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, charged with monitoring the home, show that since 2010, the center has had at least eight cases of confirmed abuse. At least three of those cases this year led to felony arrests.

Law-enforcement reports, as well as complaints filed by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, tell of disabled people who were bruised and battered by employees.

And, go to the Lake Jail records and check the names of those who were reportedly arrested. Some were never really booked into jai at all and others had their “media attention only” arrests nolle prossed by the judge or the state attorney. To date only one case looks like it might really go to court – he hired a private lawyer and they are dragging it out! The last case of abuse was filed in January 8, 2014 against one Kenyatta Hill and that case is working its way into the evaporation bin.

“Despite all the abuse, state officials say the home, which last year received $24 million in Medicaid payments, is still safe for the residents there. Removing the 89 children and adults supported by taxpayer dollars, they say, would "unnecessarily disrupt" their lives.”

"We don't want to accidentally cause more danger to them or any adverse situations because we tried to do such a large action all at once," said Jonathan Grabb, senior attorney for the agency. Grabb said the agency has boosted monitoring of the home this year since it reached a settlement agreement in February for a previous abuse complaint.
As if being abused does not "unnecessarily disrupt" their lives.” But that does not matter! What matters is how much of this $269,662.92 for each person per year [$24 million divided by 89 persons] in Medicaid payments that Ken Mazik is sharing with the politicians in kickbacks!

The home agreed to provide extra training about abuse, neglect and exploitation as well as fire employees involved with that abuse, according to the settlement.

In statement issued by Advoserv, the company that owns the facility, Chief Operating Officer Bob Bacon wrote that the employees involved in the cases have since been fired and staff members are trained in approved intervention techniques.

"These four incidents occurred despite the screening, training and oversight provided by Carlton Palms, are the acts of specific individuals and are not representative of the care and compassion demonstrated every day by our staff," he wrote. Further, he said, the Department of Children and Families concluded the center's safety policies are sufficient.
More Smoke and Mirrors
8:13AM MAR 6TH 2014
More smoke and mirror’s to appease the survivor’s of yet another child raped and murdered by another pervert that should have never seen the light of day after his first conviction. Again our Florida lawmakers are not addressing the real nightmare of child abuse. They will not address anything that covers their precious government employee’s or “vendors” who over load their pockets like the days of the Abscam investigations when the Feds really policed, arrested and convicted the criminals within our government. One of these new laws require notification at institutions of higher learning. The 1990 Clery Act, a federal law already requires the collecting and reporting of these crimes. Penn State ignored that! More demand for sexual convicts to be registered. Jessica’s law, Adam Walsh Law covers that! But, when the criminals running the system can bypass all those laws especially when the sex offender is a juvenile and friend they want to protect. As with the Green Isle rapist Tyler Anthony Jackson evidence proves even though FDLE in it’s lying police report claim the Lake Sheriff’s office arrested the rapist and run him through juvenile court and “community control” because he is a juvenile his case is top secret so the public don’t know he is a child sexual predator in training. The problem is while they claim he was on “community control” he was out in Citrus county collecting up “injunctions for protection against dating violence” without collecting up violations of probation or community control actions. All the documents to prove this can be found in Citrus County Florida court records unless and until they decide to make the go away.

Rick Scott turns his head every time – while the lame stream media does the same!

Case in point, a suit filed in October 2013 in federal court by Attorney Michael Hoffman, the top administrator at one YSI youth prison regularly made sexual advances toward teenage boys held there in 2010 and 2011 and on at least one occasion brought inmates home with him and into his bedroom. A separate case filed in Florida court in November 2013 alleges that a female guard at another YSI facility in 2012 began an "intimate and sexual relationship" with a 14-year-old inmate. Florida officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice did not investigate these alleged incidents until months and even nearly a year after they occurred, according to accounts from the mothers of the victims and documents obtained by The Huffington Post. This was in part because the for-profit prison operator failed to immediately report the alleged episodes as required under its contracts with the state. These lawsuits reinforce the findings of a recent Huffington Post investigation that revealed more than two decades of abuse and neglect inside private prisons operated by Youth Services International and other companies run by its founder, James Slattery. The series focused particular attention on the state of Florida, which has become emblematic of a nationwide trend in which growing numbers of prisoners of all ages are placed inside institutions operated by for-profit companies. Florida has entirely privatized its youth prisons and privatizes early release programs and half way houses with vendors like Bridges of America (Green Isle Boys Ranch former owners) Green Isle was run by now Lake Sheriff Gary Borders from 1989 to 2010 when they closed it because the violent rapes of the last five known boys leaked to the public. The sheriff and his prosecutor and judge friends faked up a solution and the sheriff’s little rapist friend is still free and abusing others. Still abusing the children and wasting million and millions of dollars with their vendor friends who are then required to ”share the wealth!”

And, some of these are new cases that have occurred after the October 1, 2012 Florida toughened reporting requirements and enacted a law making it a 3rd degree felony to fail to report any suspicion of child abuse to law enforcement authorities or to a child abuse hotline!
So, what good did the Jerry Sandusky law do? Absolutely none! The management ignored the law and failed to report the child sex abuse. Why because it was the management of YSI “the top administrator at one YSI youth prison regularly made sexual advances toward teenage boys held there in 2010 and 2011 and on at least one occasion brought inmates home with him and into his bedroom.”

Just like the victim’s of the boys rapes at the Lake County Sheriff’s Green Isle Boys Ranch the FDOC vendor “YSI” covered up these sexual abuse crimes against those in those in their care and custody for over a year before DCF found out about. Then Rick Scott and those other in the legislature who receive the big bucks from vendors like YSI and Bridges of American are going to instruct DCF to back off and turn their heads just like the have for years!

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh said in his opening remarks exposing his findings in the Jerry Sandusky Penn State investigation - As you will read in our report, Penn State failed to implement the provisions of the Clery Act, a 1990 federal law that requires the collecting and reporting of the crimes such as Sandusky committed on campus in 2001.

But, ”Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never
demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.” Imagine that! They had an awakening!
More Smoke and Mirrors
8:09AM MAR 6TH 2014
So, on October 1, 2012 Florida toughens the reporting requirements and enacts a law making it a 3rd degree felony to fail to report any suspicion of child abuse to law enforcement authorities or to a child abuse hotline! Education, education and more a education and what good did that do? Absolutely none! Probably half of the teachers at “the sixth largest school system in the country” heard about or read this essay and filed to report it.

September 12, 2013 - Three Broward teachers at Western High School in Davie was charged with failing to report alleged rape that a 15-year-old girl described in her class essay. The three have been transferred to jobs with no student contact pending the outcome of their cases.
The teachers read an essay in October 2011 in which a learning disabled girl described being pushed in a closet and raped by a 15-year-old boy she was dating. State law requires teachers to report suspicion of child abuse to law enforcement authorities or to a child abuse hotline. “The law was toughened in 2012 in the wake of the Penn State scandal to make it a third degree felony for anyone, not just teachers, to fail to report suspected abuse.” Any teacher's failure to report suspected child abuse is a crime.

But, in this case “the State Attorney's Office filed misdemeanor charges in August” against Cathy Schwartz, 35, of Tamarac, Mirtha Fernandez, 47, of Weston, and Pamela Devine, 54, of Coconut Creek.
" The student's mother said she first read the essay in May 2012, when school officials turned over the girl's work for the year. The mother said she was shocked that no one from the school contacted her after reading it. "This is the sixth largest school system in the country. These people are trained for this stuff. How can this happen?" asked the mother, who is not being named since she and her daughter share a surname. "I still cannot fathom why you would not report it. It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

The mother said that even after she complained to district officials, no action was taken until October 2012, when she met with Superintendent Robert Runcie and he notified the State Attorney's Office.

She said the district's inaction has made it difficult for prosecutors to charge the boy who allegedly committed the rape. Runcie said he doesn't see this as a widespread problem in the district.
"Our teachers get trained,” and “we have a full-time person who heads up our work in mandatory reporting," he said. "We're a large district, although I don't like the fact that we have one incident.”
We're using this in our ongoing training and professional development for administrators and employees." The mother and her attorney, Todd McPharlin, said the three teachers were not the only district employees who knew of the essay, many others knew as well, but were never charged.

And what will they do the next time a child is sexually abused? Fail to report it, laugh and make fun of the victim and if all else fails and the state attorney is forced to charge someone, again he will make the final decision aka “prosecutorial discretion” and charge them with a misdemeanor just like Broward County done these three. If a teacher or other government employee is convicted of a felony it takes their precious retirement and no government employee is going to do anything to cause a fellow government employee to lose their precious retirement. See it’s not really “about the children” at all – it’s all about the money!

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