Miami Herald: No misconduct probe on Florida disaster planning chief

January 6th, 2010

The Miami Herald published this article on January 6, 2009.

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Gov. Charlie Crist said he won't order an investigation into allegations of misconduct and misspending that resulted in the forced resignation earlier this week of Florida's disaster planning chief.

``I think it's been dealt with,'' Crist said Tuesday, the day after Ruben Almaguer reluctantly resigned his post as interim chief of emergency management.

Almaguer, who had held the job since Craig Fugate left to head FEMA in May, said he is ``saddened'' by Crist's decision.

It is unfair, Almaguer said, given that Crist in recent weeks launched internal inquiries into allegations of misconduct against two other agency leaders -- Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman and Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos.

``I want this investigated,'' said Almaguer, 45, a former longtime fire department leader in Miami-Dade. ``And if not, I'd ask the Legislature to look into it. I am not being given the same respect and opportunity that two other agency heads are being given. I want my fair day in court because I've got nothing to hide.''

In November, Crist ordered his inspector general to look into Peterman's extensive taxpayer-funded travel after The Herald/Times reported that Peterman spent $44,000 in tax dollars in less than two years.

And last month Crist waded into an odd public-records squabble by asking the state's inspector general to look into FDOT e-mails with the headlines ``pancake,'' ``Pancakes'' and ``French Toast.'' Critics of the commuter rail legislation that passed during December's special session said the breakfast words were ``code'' used to potentially skirt a public-records request for agency correspondence concerning rail issues.

The inquiries are ongoing.

Almaguer is accused by his own employees of discriminating against female staffers, overstating department travel savings and making improper purchases with his state taxpayer-funded credit card.