TALLAHASSEE — In a year when Florida lawmakers expect to slash thousands of state jobs and cut benefits for workers who remain, Gov. Rick Scott's office helped create a position for the man whose role overseeing a controversial Tampa group home cost him an agency head position.
Carl Littlefield, 62, had been Scott's pick to run the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. But when a top Senate Republican objected to his confirmation, he was instead offered a $78,000-per-year job with the Department of Children and Families in Tampa.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, told Littlefield and Scott's staff that Littlefield "was not a good fit" at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. It was a clear warning from Storms, who is chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, where the first nomination hearing would have been held.
"If this new position is a position the governor believes he has to have, that's his decision," Storms said Thursday.
After Storms' objection, Littlefield quickly resigned from the $140,000-a-year agency appointment. Six days later, on Feb. 28, Littlefield e-mailed Scott's office asking if there was "any progress on a new assignment."
"My wife is a little concerned about a lapse in health insurance coverage," Littlefield wrote.
Littlefield e-mailed again March 7, after another week passed.
"I am more than ready to get back to work," he wrote.
On March 14, he was hired as director of community outreach at the DCF. Littlefield will work with other state and federal agencies on local community-based programs, said DCF spokesman Joe Follick.
Littlefield said he couldn't remember whether he heard back from the Governor's Office about his e-mails and wouldn't elaborate how he learned about the DCF job. "I filled out an application," he said.
Scott picked Littlefield to replace Agency for Persons with Disabilities Secretary Jim DeBeaugrine, whom Scott fired before DeBeaugrine could testify at Storms' committee about the controversial Seffner group home. The Tampa-area home served men with severe behavior problems, including sex offenders, and permitted sex between the residents.
In at least one instance, staffers viewed sex between peers as part of a therapeutic program, according to a December St. Petersburg Times investigation. Though the center categorized one encounter in 2005 as rape, administrators did not change a sexual policy that national experts questioned.
Littlefield was in charge of the agency region that monitored the group home.
He was assistant secretary of developmental disabilities at the Department of Children and Families from 1999 to 2001. That year he was named Tampa Bay area director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, overseeing DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. He held that job until Scott appointed him to lead the agency.
Michael C. Bender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.