Florida Prison Privatization Draws Ethics Complaint

September 15, 2011

A union opposed to the privatization of Florida prisons announced Wednesday it has filed an ethics complaint aimed at derailing the move, arguing that Gov. Rick Scott faced a series of conflicts of interest in relation to the initiative.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is engaged in a showdown over the right to represent correctional officers in Florida, says Scott faces dueling priorities because he oversees both the Department of Corrections and a state investment fund that has invested in private prison companies.

The organization also highlights a total of $30,000 in contributions to Scott’s inaugural committee from two of the companies most likely to win bidding on a new contract that would hand over facilities across the southern third of the state.

“It just raises too many questions, and it creates this impression where we have the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Michael Filler, director of the Teamsters’ public service division.

Separately, another union, the Police Benevolent Association, has sued to try to block the privatization. The PBA represents most corrections officers in the state. The Teamsters are trying to force an election over whether the PBA will continue to be the main union for the guards.

The Teamsters said the state owns millions of dollars in stock in the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America through its pension fund. That presents a conflict for Scott, who is on the State Board of Administration, which oversees the pension, the union argues in its complaint.

“The governor, as the Chair of the SBA, has an obligation to act in the best interest of the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund – doing so would call for the maximization of profit to the GEO group or the Corrections Corporation of America. … However, State/DOC as the negotiator of the contracts with the companies, is obligated to minimize the payout to the private firms,” the complaint says.

The group argues that the state should bar GEO and CCA from participating in the bidding process, and that the state should investigate the potential conflict before going ahead with the privatization project.

The state owned about $10 million in stock in the two companies as of the close of business Tuesday, said Dennis MacKee, a spokesman for the SBA — $8.8 million in CCA stock and $1.4 million in GEO.

But MacKee said most of the stock was held either in three passive accounts that follow certain indices or in a more active account that is managed externally. Only about $460,000 of the stock is held in an active account run internally.

The total value of the state’s pension fund was $117.7 billion as of Tuesday’s close.

Lane Wright, Scott’s press secretary, also brushed off the contention that the contributions to Scott’s inauguration would influence the bidding.

“Between two and three hundred companies or individuals donated to the inauguration fund,” Wright said. “And that money went to the Republican Party of Florida, in total compliance with the law, not to Governor Scott directly.”

Wright also said Scott would not try to influence the selection process and wants to see the contract awarded to the lowest bidder.

By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service of Florida


5 Responses to “Florida Prison Privatization Draws Ethics Complaint”

  1. Jay on September 16th, 2011 8:45 pm

    Us Floridians shouldn’t be surprised. Rick Scott campaigned on runnin Florida like a business, we just didn’t know he was going to run it like his own personal money making business. Slick Rick is denying federal infrastructure funds on the basis of his own twisted value system(say good bye to those construction jobs). Next he tried to buy off voters with a property tax decrease, well guess how much an average middle class homeowner gets back? 28 BUCKS!!!! The only people who benefited from slick rick’s giveaway were large land owners like FPL and Disney. They stand to pay millions less in taxes EACH YEAR, not a bad investment for only donating a million each to Scott. This guy is something else.

  2. jack ruby on September 15th, 2011 10:05 pm

    I know a little about back room dealings-I think the governor know a WHOLE LOT MORE about shady dealings.

  3. baldhead on September 15th, 2011 5:45 pm

    Privitization is never a good thing when it comes to corrections!

  4. Jane on September 15th, 2011 7:40 am

    I don’t think privitation was a good thing. The roads used to be done by the prison road crews and they looked good. Now they are a mess and we are paying more money for a less than desirable job being done. If this an idication of how the prisons will be run I’m not impressed.

  5. 429SCJ on September 15th, 2011 6:12 am

    This should be of no surprise, the citizens of Florida knew about Scott’s shady dealings, before they voted him to office. I hope after the economic collaspe, West Florida elects good leadership. We are going to need a flag?

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