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DCF OFFICE ON SPIRIT CASE HAD TROUBLE AT TOP

Miami Herald

The head of the regional office that handled reports of abuse involving six Gilchrist County children murdered by their grandfather last month faced his own recent inquiry.

A 38-page report from the Department of Children and Families' Inspector General portrays the region's top administrator, David Abramowitz, as a boss without boundaries, a sometimes profane leader preoccupied with the appearance of his staff. In conversations with individual workers, Abramowitz is accused of calling female employees "hoochie mamas" and "hos in high heels."

Shortly after DCF completed that investigation into Abramowitz's behavior, the region faced its deadliest day: On the afternoon of Sept. 18, after a long history of drug abuse and violence, 51-year-old Don Charles Spirit fatally shot his 28-year-old daughter and all of her children, ages 2 months to 11 years, before killing himself.

The carnage exploded two weeks after DCF had been told the drug use of "the adults" in the home endangered the youngsters, a report that went idle. The family was the subject of 18 prior abuse complaints.

The inspector general's investigation of Abramowitz, released in a final report Sept. 2, found that his behavior did not reach the level of creating a "hostile work environment." The inspector general did recommend that Abramowitz receive, "at a minimum, appropriate training."

The report contained no allegations that his management style had resulted in poor outcomes for children or vulnerable adults within DCF's orbit. But the report paints the former U.S. Army colonel as a bully with a salty sense of humor whose administration sometimes resembled a frat house.

When then-DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo, a Miamian, was leaving the department, Abramowitz called a meeting to announce her successor. "During this meeting, Mr. Abramowitz stated that Ms. Jacobo was Cuban and "swam to the United States," the report said. In another instance, he referred to a child-abuse supervisor - in her presence - as having "her name on the back of the boys' bathroom door." He told an African-American investigator to change her hairstyle because she looked like the rapper "Lil Wayne."

Abramowitz, through a DCF spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed, saying his response to the findings were "in the report." In the report, he acknowledged having a "lack of a filter," but said he did not recall making some of the comments attributed to him, including the remark about Jacobo or the bathroom door reference.

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