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Whistleblower alleges agency circumvented rules to hire MacNamara's choice


(Update below) Leaders at the state's Department of Elder Affairs circumvented hiring procedures and appointed an attorney with a criminal history at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott's then-chief of staff, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed in Leon County court.

Attorney Donald Bell was hired for the $98,000-a-year top-level post despite a drug conviction and two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, the lawsuit alleges. He was recommended by former Scott chief of staff Steve MacNamara, emails show.

The lawsuit, filed by former human resources employee Frances Brooks, says Elder Affairs secretary Charles Corley passed over other applicants and allowed Bell to skip key background screenings, shielding his record from other employees while bypassing safeguards to protect elderly people served by the agency. More here. 

Update: Department of Elder Affairs’ Communications Director Ashley Marshall released the follow statement in response to the article:

 The facts presented in Tampa Bay Times are inaccurate. Donald Bell was not allowed to “skip background screenings” when hired at the Department of Elder Affairs. In accordance with Florida Statutes and Department policy, a Level II Background Screening was conducted on January 6, 2012. Because of his position in executive management at the Department, a second more extensive background investigation began on January 13, 2012. It is common practice for employees to begin work while background results are still pending. During the hiring process, Bell was forthcoming to Department leadership about his history. With his pardon, the offenses in his record do not prohibit him from employment.