Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Politics

After loss to Pam Bondi, George Sheldon nabs fix-it job in Illinois

TALLAHASSEE — George Sheldon may have lost his bid for Florida attorney general last year to Pam Bondi, but his reputation as a Mr. Fix-It of troubled agencies is still intact.

On Tuesday, he starts his new job as head of Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services, which has come under fire recently for revelations of violence at group juvenile care facilities, botched investigations into child deaths and mounting worker caseloads.

His predecessor, Bobbie Gregg, announced her departure as acting director of the agency last month after the Chicago Tribune published an investigative series about how taxpayer-funded residential treatment centers had become breeding grounds for juvenile prostitution.

"It's a system that needs work," Sheldon, 67, told the Times/Herald on Friday. "There appears to be an overreliance on group care, where kids don't get the attention they need. But until I get on the ground, I can't really tell what's wrong."

Sheldon's new assignment, which will pay him $150,000 annually, is similar to the role he played from 2008 to 2011 when he served as secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families as budget cuts undermined the state's child-protection system, resulting in well-publicized cases of child neglect.

By the time he left the agency, however, Sheldon had set records for adoptions and efficiency in processing food stamp applications while steering more children away from foster care in favor of adoptions and reuniting them with their families.

"This is similar to the Florida situation," Sheldon said. "My first goal will be to push for transparency. It's the only way to build trust with an agency."

After losing to Bondi in November by a wide margin, Sheldon, a former Florida deputy attorney general, said he took the next two months off. He said he didn't apply for the Illinois job. Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, hired him after talking with several people who knew of Sheldon's work in Florida, he said.

"We don't share the same politics on a lot of issues," Sheldon said. "But child welfare is a nonpartisan issue."

Sheldon will be entering a different political environment. The Illinois Legislature is two-thirds Democratic, unlike Florida, which is overwhelmingly Republican. He'll oversee an agency with a $1 billion budget and 3,000 employees, or about a third of the size of Florida's DCF.

Sheldon said he's not sure if he'll live in Springfield, the capital, or in Chicago, where the bulk of his agency staffers will be. In the short term, he'll live at an extended stay in Springfield.

"It will be a challenge as the attorney general job would have been," Sheldon said. "Both jobs are similar. It's about trying to get people on the same page."

Comments
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA — With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Published: 12/11/17
Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy Moore raced Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama’s special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their...
Published: 12/11/17
As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

As tax plan gained steam, GOP lost focus on the middle class

The GOP tax plan on the cusp of becoming law diverges wildly from the promises President Trump and top advisers said they would deliver for the middle class — an evolution that shows how traditional Republican orthodoxy swamped Trump’s distinctive br...
Published: 12/10/17

Same income, but not taxes, in GOP plan

In most places, a dollar is a dollar. But in the tax code envisioned by Republicans, the amount you make may be less important than how you make it.Consider two chefs working side by side for the same catering company, doing the same job, for the sam...
Published: 12/09/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

Democrats fighting math and history in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Renegade Republican Roy Moore may be plagued by scandal, but it will take more than that to convince the voters of 44th Place North to show up for Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday. In a state where Democrats are used to losing, the m...
Published: 12/09/17
 ‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

‘He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him’: A look inside Trump’s day-to-day

WASHINGTON — Around 5:30 each morning, President Donald Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to "Fox & Friends" for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s "...
Published: 12/09/17
Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

Why Democrats decided Sen. Al Franken had to go

  It seems like a distant memory now, but Al Franken’s arrival in the U.S. Senate eight years ago marked the very moment when Democrats’ control of Washington reached its highest point in a generation. After an eight-month recount, the ...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

Rep. Trent Franks to resign after broaching surrogacy with subordinates

WASHINGTON — Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who is among the most conservative members of the House, said Thursday he would resign his seat in a statement where he acknowledged discussing surrogacy with two former female subordinates.Franks...
Published: 12/07/17
Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once...
Published: 12/07/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17