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Prison industries company reassigns controversial hire

Two weeks after the chairwoman of Florida's prison industries company hired a new CEO from a controversial affiliate, the board voted Wednesday to bump him down a notch and have him report to a longtime employee.

The PRIDE Enterprises board named Bob Bury acting president and told him to reinvigorate the company's slumping sales. He will report to Jack Edgemon, who was named acting CEO.

The decision comes as PRIDE struggles to regain its footing during an investigation by Gov. Jeb Bush's inspector general.

Bush has expressed concerns that PRIDE, or Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, a nonprofit venture created by the Legislature in 1981, has strayed from its mission of training prisoners when it invested at least $10-million to launch affiliated companies, some of which did not hire Florida prisoners.

Board leaders say their investment in Industries Training Corp. benefited PRIDE by creating more inmate jobs and cutting costs.

The board forced CEO Pamela Jo Davis to resign in July, though she remains president of ITC. It also forced president John Bruels to resign and named Edgemon as an interim replacement.

Two weeks ago, chairwoman Maria Camila Leiva hired Bury as acting CEO without a board vote. Bury is president of Northern Outfitters, a Utah extreme clothing manufacturer owned by ITC.

Jim Crosby, Florida corrections secretary and a PRIDE board member, questioned Leiva's decision.

"We're going to take one of ITC's employees to be the CEO of PRIDE?" Crosby said. "How does that make sense two months after we said we were going to split these two companies apart?"

Crosby asked the board to give Edgemon the authority to hire Bury as a consultant on sales and marketing. But other board members said Bury needed a title when he called on potential customers.

Edgemon earns about $130,000. Bury will work on a month-to-month contract worth as much as $165,000 annually.

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