Embattled disaster chiefs' personnel files clean
The current and former chief disaster planners for Florida – accused of mismanaging employees and skirting state bidding and contract laws – both have clean personnel files filled with positive annual performance reviews and letters of gratitude from local governments and emergency planners.
The Times/Herald reviewed the personnel files for interim emergency management director David Halstead and for Ruben Almaguer, the former interim director who resigned Monday amid allegations of misconduct and misspending.
Almaguer resigned reluctantly, saying he did nothing wrong and wants an investigation to prove it. Gov. Charlie Crist said there is no need to investigate. He put Halstead in Almaguer’s spot Monday, hours after the emergency management division’s recently resigned general counsel Tom Congdon submitted a whistleblower complaint against Halstead.
Halstead's and Almaguer's files show no previous disciplinary actions or grievances. Almaguer's annual evaluation for the period ending March 2008, for example, gave him a score of 4.6 out of 5 points in areas such as management skills, customer service, and adherence to the state response team's mission.
An earlier letter recommending Almaguer in 2007 for the position of chief of recovery and mitigation noted his two-plus decades of experience in the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department "in positions of increasing responsibility." Then-director Craig Fugate also lauded Almaguer's work in disasters including the Oklahoma City bombing,the 9/11 attacks and several Florida hurricanes.
Halstead's evaluation for the one-year period ending March 2008 scored him 4.82 out of 5. He joined the state emergency management division in 1999, and his personnel records note his key role in dealing with the aftermath of the 1998 wildfires and the ones that followed through 2001. He also worked with the FDLE after 9/11 to assess the terrorism threat in Florida. He previously worked for the Altamonte Springs fire department, rising through the ranks until he retired as assistant chief in March 1998.
Halstead's file also includes various training certificates and letters of thanks from local fire officials and municipal emergency planners.