Jerry Regier was already a controversial choice to lead the Department of Children and Families when he took over the embattled agency in September of 2002. Now, an inspector general's report has disclosed his cozy relationship with a contractor who did business with DCF.
Regier stayed at the man's beach house, attended parties and two of his top staffers accepted gifts and favors from other contractors.
He told reporters, “It gave the appearance of impropriety and I take full responsibility for my actions and it will not happen again.”
Regier demanded the resignations of the two other employees, but did not offer his own.
Cecka Green with the group Voices for Florida's Children says DCF’s top executives can't afford the appearance of questionable ethics, especially when it comes to multi-million dollar contracts affecting children's lives.
“It's troubling to say the very least. What message does that send to the rest of the department and what message does that send to the public? I think the public's confidence has to be a little shaky now.”
Gov. Jeb Bush is standing by his man. His communications director, Jill Bratina, did say the governor was deeply disappointed. She says Bush and Regier talked at length about Regier's action plan, including new reviews of all state contracts. She says there was no talk of Regier leaving his post.
“The Secretary very openly admitted his concerns, his mistakes, took responsibility and is working to rectify the situation.”
But that's not good enough for Regier's critics. At least one state senator is already calling for his resignation and the chorus is likely to grow.
Miami State Senator Frederica Wilson says Jerry Regier should step down after admitting ethical lapses in judgment. She is also calling for an independent probe into DCF’s contracting process.