Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Department Of Children And Families Spokesman Arrested On Child Porn Charges

The head of the Department of Children and Families, "horrified and shocked" by the arrest of his agency spokesman on child-pornography charges, Monday ordered a review of personnel records for all DCF employees.

DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey briefed reporters at DCF headquarters about the arrest of Al Zimmerman on eight counts of soliciting two boys for sexual purposes.

Butterworth, who fired Zimmerman last Friday, said he sent a message to all department employees — urging them to "work with your heads held high" — and said the incident does not reflect on DCF's work in protecting children in foster care, the elderly and other needy Floridians.

You can read more here.

Some questions:
-Can we keep things like this from happening?
-Does this lessen your trust in your local child protective service agencies?
-What punishment should Zimmerman be subject to if found guilty? Should his punishment be any more severe due to the nature of his job?
-What do you think will be the fallout from this incident?

1 comment:

Scott Gunsaullus said...

The missing part of this story is how he ended up being hired in the first place. In addition to not having a background check, Zimmerman was also not required to submit a standard state employment application. None of his former employers were contacted before or after DCF hired him.

To me, this looks like a clear cut case of patronage gone wrong.

Zimmerman had connections with then Attorney General Charlie Christ, the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and Brighthouse Cable Networks. It appears that he dropped a few of these names on his resume and that's all it took to land a fulltime job with DCF.

Instead of being hired based on merit, experience and background, Zimmerman was hired based on his high profile connections. Hiring policy was disregarded and overlooked. Favors were called in. Based on my experience with state government, it's safe to say this isn't an isolated incident.

Unfortunately, for everyone concerned, this is what you might call a "worst case scenario."

Zimmerman is pretty much done. His career is effectively ruined and, depending on the outcome of his trial, he could spend many years in prison. However, his individual punishment does not really address how to prevent the circumstances that lead to this incident from happening again.

Bob Butterworth is initiating a full scale review of DCF's active 13,500 personnel records. Even a cursory examination of those records is liable to uncover a great deal of inconsistency, patronage, and out right graft. The ball will be in Butterworth's court on how to play it. Full disclosure could damage the former Jeb Bush and current Charlie Christ administrations a great deal. Or, Butterworth could compromise and trade favors for the advancement of his personal agenda; which may or may not coincide with the welfare of Florida's children and families.