The head of Florida's prison agency is stepping down. Ken Tucker, who took over the Department of Corrections last year, said in a video message he is leaving because he's approaching a mandatory retirement date. Tucker's last day is Dec. 28, although he will be on annual leave until that date. Tucker was picked in August 2011 to run the prison agency after Gov. Rick Scott forced then-Secretary Edwin Buss to resign. Tucker had been the deputy commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Tucker said he has some regret in leaving during a time when the agency is struggling. The department is caught up in a legal battle over privatization. Plus, there is also an ongoing investigation into allegations of excessive force at a North Florida prison.
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State denies warehousing kids
State health officials met with federal investigators to discuss allegations the state is violating federal law by unnecessarily warehousing hundreds of children with disabilities in nursing homes. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek said her staff called the children's parents and found that 14 percent were interested in exploring home care options. But only 1 percent wanted to move the child back home after receiving more information. Her staff met with Department of Justice officials Thursday. Dudek says the state pays for all medically necessary services for children and that parents ultimately decide whether to place the child in a nursing home. Parents say they have no other option because the state has slashed in-home services including nursing care for critically ill children on ventilators and feeding tubes.
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Subpoena of reporter is refused
A Florida judge is rejecting a request by prosecutors to interview a reporter about a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield on Wednesday ruled that The Florida Times-Union reporter Matt Dixon does not have to testify in the ongoing criminal case against Carletha Cole. Cole was arrested in 2011, accused of giving a Dixon a secret recording containing a conversation between Cole and Carroll's chief of staff. Prosecutors in October tried to subpoena Dixon but the newspaper went to court to fight the request. Sheffield ruled that the State Attorney's Office did not show that there was a compelling reason for Dixon to testify. The judge also said prosecutors have other ways to prove that Dixon received the recording without questioning him directly.
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Deputies to set up DUI checkpoint
Sheriff's deputies will be on the lookout for impaired drivers Friday night and Saturday morning as they conduct a sobriety checkpoint on U.S. 19. The deputies will be stopping cars to check for drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs from 10 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday near the parking lot of a Kmart store at 26996 U.S. 19 N. Sheriff's officials are dedicating Friday's checkpoint to the memory of Miriam Harrell, a 76-year-old woman who died in a crash with an impaired driver on U.S. 19 in Clearwater in 2004.