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Interim revenue chief orders review of troubled agency

The interim director of the state Revenue Department has begun amanagement review of the agency and asked his internal affairs office to look into the "activities" of certain employees.

Larry Fuchs, who was put in charge of the Revenue Department after

executive director Katie Tucker resigned last week, confirmed Friday that his inspector general's office is looking into the agency's hiring of two children of Aletta Shutes, secretary of the Department of Administration and a longtime friend of Tucker's.

Questions have been raised about the circumstances of the hiring of Jimmy Shutes and his sister, Deborah Lucas, as well as their qualifications.

In addition, "I've asked them (the Revenue Department's inspector

general's office) to look into the activities of some individuals in the agency as well," Fuchs said. He refused to be more specific.

Fuchs stressed that the management review of the agency is separate from anything the inspector general's office is investigating. The management review "will attempt to highlight areas in the organization and the operation of this agency that should be the subject of possible corrective action," Fuchs said.

The review, still in the preliminary stages, is being conducted by a five-member team of officials from the offices of the state comptroller, attorney general, governor, transportation department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Fuchs said he intends to provide at least a draft report of the review to the governor and Cabinet before a permanent revenue director is chosen in mid-April. He also said he expects personnel changes at the Revenue Department during his tenure, but not a "wholesale reorganization."

Fuchs compared the current situation to a management review conducted eight years ago after scandal rocked the Florida Highway Patrol. Several officials lost their jobs, including Chester Blakemore, the director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. However, Fuchs said, the revenue management review team "will look at operations and organizations, not abuses. We don't think there are the kinds of systematic abuses that were present at the highway safety department (in 1982)."

Tucker resigned after an FDLE investigation concluded that she ordered a controversial tax and criminal investigation of her husband's political enemy. The day after resigning, she was arrested on charges of altering public records in an attempt to exonerate herself.

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