Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida prisons chief packs staff with Indiana hires

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's choice to reform Florida's prison system came from Indiana and quickly decided the agency needed new leadership.

From Indiana.

In a few months, Corrections Secretary Edwin Buss has hired more than a dozen people from his former state. They include his second-in-command, chief financial officer, personal secretary, regional coordinator and a warden — 14 people in all with a combined salary of more than $1 million.

Dan Ronay, Buss' deputy secretary and chief of staff, is the highest-paid Hoosier hire at $120,000 a year. He held a similar position in Indiana under Buss.

Ronay, known as "Chief," said he and Buss needed to move quickly to improve the nation's third-largest prison system in the wake of a scathing report by Scott's law-and-order transition team.

"Our team found that DOC is broken," the report said. "It is lacking leadership, vision and courage. … We found that a pattern of promoting from within has created an entrenched culture resistant to creativity and innovation."

Ronay said he read the report six times. In his first few weeks on the job, he fired more than 30 people and began building Buss' team by hiring and promoting others from within, while also raiding the Indiana system.

"If you come in and you don't know too many people, how long is it going to take you to fix your agency and do the things you need to do?" Ronay said. "When you reform things, there's some hurt, and there's some anxiety. People don't like change."

Also on Buss' Florida team are the prison system's chief financial officer, Ronald Miller Jr., who is paid $115,000, and Bill Carr, an assistant secretary for re-entry programs, at $110,000 a year. Both men held similar posts in Indiana.

All but four of Buss' Indiana hires earn at least $70,000 a year, according to salary data provided by the department.

The pipeline also includes warden Alan Chapman at Avon Park Correctional Institution; Steven Fox, a construction expert; Tahnee Casanova, who helps inmates make the transition to freedom; and Jim Cox and Latoya Lane, who are working to implement a case management system for the state's more than 100,000 inmates.

Ronay said most took vacant positions and are earning less money than their predecessors. Four of the new hires are African-American and two are Hispanic; five are women.

Ronay himself holds two posts, which saves money, he said.

At the same time, Ronay emphasized that some long-time agency employees were promoted, such as Russell Hosford, a former warden at a Wakulla County prison who now oversees all 144 prisons as deputy secretary for institutions.

Under Buss' direction, the notoriously insular prison system has become an incubator of new ideas from special prison dorms for veterans to more educational and re-entry efforts to reduce the chance that inmates will return to prison.

But Buss' zeal to improve the system has hit two hurdles in the past week, suggesting growing tension between Buss and the Governor's Office.

Scott's staff questioned Buss' decision to sign a deal with MSNBC to tape six episodes of its Lockup series at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton and ordered the contract scrapped. The network would have paid the state $110,000, and the prison system would have had final say on which scenes were used.

The Governor's Office also ordered changes to a bid proposal to privatize all prison health care services. The bid specified that a vendor must be accredited by the American Correctional Association.

The bid's author, health care consultant Betty Gondles — who also did work for Buss in Indiana — is the wife of the association's executive director, James Gondles. Gondles was hired on a 10-month contract for $180,000.

Buss did not respond to requests for comment. His spokeswoman, Gretl Plessinger, said Gondles' contract would be canceled by Wednesday "by mutual agreement."

Times/Herald staff writer Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Indiana hires

Florida Corrections Secretary Ed Buss' hires from Indiana:

Dan Ronaychief of staff$120,000
Ronald Miller Jr.chief financial officer$115,000
William Carrassistant secretary for transition$110,000
Yvette Salinasregional re-entry coordinator$90,000
Layota Lanedeputy assistant secretary$80,000
Alan Chapmanwarden$77,550
Angela Suttonexecutive assistant$77,550
Jim Cox Jr.deputy assistant secretary$75,000
Tahnee Casanovachief of community relations$70,000
Angel Velez Jr.assistant warden$70,000
Steven Foxsupervisor of construction projects$65,000
Amy Ulshaferpersonal secretary$54,000
Jeffery von Arxgovernment operations consultant$41,000
Brittany Kirtonpersonnel technician$28,000

Source: Department of Corrections

Florida prisons chief packs staff with Indiana hires 08/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494
  2. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 139, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 139 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  3. Hurricane Maria's winds hit 175 mph as it aims at Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Maria barreled toward Puerto Rico on Tuesday night after wreaking widespread devastation on Dominica and leaving the small Caribbean island virtually …

    A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  4. Another Hollywood nursing home resident dies. It's the 9th in post-Irma tragedy.

    State Roundup

    The Broward County Medical Examiner's office is investigating another death of a resident of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills — the ninth blamed on the failure of a cooling system that became a stifling deathtrap three days after Irma hit.

    Carlos Canal, pictured at 47 years old, came to Miami from Cuba in 1960. Above is his citizenship photo. [Courtesy of Lily Schwartz]
  5. Hillsborough School Board approves 2017-18 budget


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a budget of $2.83 billion for the 2017-18 school year.

    Photo illustration. []