Turnover at health department continues

Apr 2, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on April 2, 2012:

Turnover at Health Department Continues

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Administrative turnover continues at the Florida Department of Health as two of the agency’s highest ranking financial staff abruptly left the agency last week as well as a senior attorney in the state’s medial quality assurance department.

Deputy Secretary for Administration Gary Mahoney announced his retirement March 23 and his top bureau chief for finance and accounting, Matt Kirkland, resigned the same day. Attorney Donna Erlich resigned March 28. Her resignation is effective May 1.

Kirkland on Feb. 12 had received a positive evaluation from supervisor Deputy Secretary Lucy Gee. Mahoney had not had an evaluation since 2008, according to Department of Health records.

Deputy Secretary Kristina Wiggins announced Mahoney and Kirkland’s departure in an email to staff on March 27.  Wiggins — who joined the department in February — also announced in her email that Ed McEachron would be acting division director for the Division of Administration.

Mahoney was enrolled in the state’s deferred retirement option program and will earn a monthly benefit of $4,085 effective June, Department of Management Services spokesman Kris Purcell said in an email.

Kirkland, who was in charge of the department’s contract administration monitoring unit, earned $105,000 annually.

There has been significant and abrupt turnover in high level administration at the Florida Department of Health in the past six months. 

The most recent departure was Secretary Frank Farmer, who resigned the last week of session citing his wife’s battle with breast cancer as the reason. Prior to that, Department of Health Deputy Secretary Kim Berfield resigned in December. In November, Children Medical Services Director Phyllis Sloyer left after a longtime career helping children with special health needs. Prior to Sloyer’s departure three other top administrators departed, including Lisa Conti in environmental health; Jean Kline in emergency medical operations; and Julie Meadows-Keefe, a chief legal counsel at the department.

The Department of Health is one of the state’s largest agencies and, this session, lawmakers took aim to trim the size of the bureaucracy. The Legislature passed a budget that trimmed more than 500 jobs from the department.

A push by the chairman of the House spending committee on health and human services, Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, to decouple the county health departments from the umbrella of the state Department of Health was unsuccessful. But Hudson did help push through a bill — HB 1263 — that reorganized part of the agency.

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