Crist's office: Kindle, other buys factored into emergency head's exit
In the two months after Gov. Charlie Crist appointed him to lead the state’s emergency planning agency, Ruben Almaguer used his state-issued credit card to buy an Amazon Kindle and carrying case, a Canon camera, a portable television and a Dell computer.
Sterling Ivey, spokesman for Crist, said the Kindle and other purchases were "specific factors that lead to" Almaguer's forced exit in December, along with a female employee's threatened whistleblower lawsuit and concerns that he overstated department travel savings.
Almaguer said this week that the governor's office "never" told him the P-Card purchases were inappropriate, and he said the equipment was necessary for his work. He said the Kindle allowed him and others, including current interim emergency management director David Halstead, to store and read from the road important emergency documents, and related state statutes and policies. He said the other equipment, including the mini Dell laptop, was kept at the EOC for work purposes.
Almaguer, 45, abruptly resigned earlier this month amid allegations from his own employees that he discriminated against female staffers and made improper purchases with his state taxpayer-funded credit card. He later called the accusations “baseless” and urged the governor to launch an investigation to prove he did nothing wrong. Crist said it’s not necessary and has since named Almaguer’s No. 2, Halstead, to serve as interim director.
Almaguer's ouster comes amid scrutiny of the spending and travel habits of other Crist agency leaders, including juvenile justice secretary Frank Peterman, who recently repaid some $26,000 in travel costs to and from his Tampa Bay home. In contrast, Almaguer's purchases totaled less than $3,000.
Ivey said they were just one factor in Almaguer's forced ouster, and he pointed out that Peterman repaid the state. Almaguer told the Times/Herald this week that he is "moving on."
"I'm not fighting this any more," he said. "I'm really over it."
Here's the run-down of his P-Card purchases
- $493.99 on June 10 from Amazon.com for an Amazon Kindle plus $49.97 for a black carrying case
- $765.86 June 13 for Best Buy, listed as "supplies for the EOC" and includes a $149.99 portable LCD HDTV and a $249.99 Canon camera
- $600.35 June 18 Dell Inspiron 1010, “mini netbook” purchase
- $165.56 June 24 Dell computer accessories
- $451.87 July 14 Best Buy “supplies to be used for EOC media briefing room,” including computer wipes, lapdesk, USB cord, etc.