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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Conflict-of-interest fears prompted Scott's staff to derail health care bid



Once again, Florida prisons chief Edwin Buss is in hot water with the governor's office, and tensions between the Department of Corrections and Gov. Rick Scott's office are worsening.

A request for proposals to privatize all health care services in Florida prisons was quietly removed from the agency's web site in recent days without any explanation. The reason, as stated by a knowledgeable source, is that the original proposal stipulated that the contractor "will be required to maintain full accreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA)."

The executive director of ACA, James Gondles, is the husband of Betty Gondles, the health care consultant hired by Buss to write the Florida health care RFP. Gondles was hired for a 10-month contract paying $180,000.

Last week, the governor's office abruptly ordered Buss to cancel a $110,000 contract with the cable network MSNBC, which had begun videotaping six segments of its "Lockup" series at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton. 

The normally accessible Buss has stopped speaking to reporters, and Buss' spokeswoman, Gretl Plessinger, said Gondles' last day on the state payroll will be Wednesday. "It was mutually agreed upon that her contract would end tomorrow (Wednesday)," Plessinger said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:45am]


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