In an article written by Steve Bousquet and published by various newspaper, including the Lakeland Ledger, it has been reported that William Schossler, President of the nonprofit Henry & Rilla White Foundation was paid $1.2 million in 2010. The Henry & Rilla White Foundation has two dozen contracts with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
According to Bousquet’s article numerous state officials, including Wansley Walters, Secretary of DJJ, have expressed dismay at the size of Schossler’s pay plan. The amount of Schossler’s compensation is not nearly as remarkable as the surprise expressed by state officials.
I have been reporting on this blog, and directly to state agencies, the astounding lack of transparency among state contractors for years. Those reports have included the Henry & Rilla White Foundation and DJJ. I am skeptical of DJJ Secretary Walters’ dismay.
Thousands of state contractors, including the Henry & Rilla White Foundation have contracts with various state agencies that contain explicit language that makes them subject to Florida’s Public Records Act. In spite of the contractual provisions that provide for the immediate and unilateral cancelation of such contracts when a contractor refuses to permit the inspection, copying and photography of public records almost none of them comply.
Those contractual provisions are no accident. They appear in the contracts due to a statutory requirement found in Section 287.058 of the Florida Statutes. The idea is that substantial public funds are followed by public scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the agencies that issue these contracts, including DJJ, make no effort to audit contract compliance. I have addressed this issue repeatedly with various state agencies, to no avail. It’s obvious that the contractors don’t care because the agencies don’t care.
I have even offered to share the results of my public records audits with state agencies. I haven’t had any takers.
On more than one occasion I have offered to travel to Tallahassee at my own expense to demonstrate, first hand, the non-compliance of state contractors. My offers have never been accepted.
I have visited many DJJ contractors and not once has a vendor complied with a public records request in compliance with Florida’s Public Records Act or their contract. Perhaps Secretary Walters would like to join me on my next in-person audit.
If state contractors know that they can violate their contracts and state law with impunity why is anyone surprised by what they do. Paying top executives $1.2 million should be the least of our worries. Many of these contractors have in their custody and care, some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Who really knows what happens behind closed doors. Certainly not DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters.
We should all be concerned by Steve Bousquet’s article. But we should be outraged that state officials are so indifferent about enforcing the Right To Know. If contractors knew they were subject to public scrutiny they would act according. Sadly, they aren’t, so they don’t.