Sheriff Jack Parker keeps his word.
Or so proclaims his campaign literature.
After breezing through his seven "promises kept", I began to wonder exactly what 2004 campaign promises he didn't keep...
...and wasn't telling us.
Interesting what's stumbled upon when one's googling for something else.
Back in November 2005, Miami Herald reporter Dan Christensen detailed specifics regarding a connection between several Florida sheriffs and
, a health care provider contracted to provide medical services to inmates in Florida jails and prisons.
Among the sheriffs identified? Jack Parker.
Funny. I didn't find any of this in his campaign brochure.
And I never found those 2004 "Elect Me!" promises.
A year ago, Coconut Creek-based Armor Correctional Health Services was The company had formidable political connections but no track record, no active contracts and not a dollar in sales.
an upstart in the business of providing healthcare for jail inmates.
But Armor, owned by Miami physician Dr. Jose Armas, has bulked up fast.
Today, with behind-the-scenes help from several current and former
Florida sheriffs, Armor has signed multiyear contracts with Broward,
Brevard and Hillsborough counties worth about $221 million over five
years. A fourth contract, with Martin County, is being finalized.
County sheriffs do their own hiring and set the rules that competing
bidders must follow.
In Broward and Brevard, rules were changed in advance of bids in ways
that helped Armor qualify for contracts.
And in Hillsborough, Armor's bid was millions of dollars higher than
three others. It got a boost from a late decision to eliminate price as a consideration.
Two sheriffs who bypassed Armor said fellow sheriffs have called them
and plugged the company. They identified those sheriffs as Ken Jenne of Broward, Ric Bradshaw of Palm Beach and J.R. ''Jack'' Parker of Brevard.
Ex-Hillsborough Sheriff Cal Henderson told The Herald that Armor hired him as a ''consultant'' shortly after he left office in January.
His duties, he said, have included lobbying sheriffs in at least six
counties -- Marion, Collier, Sarasota, Manatee, Leon and Lee -- where
healthcare contracts were pending or anticipated.
According to company spokeswoman Dana Clay, Armor won the contracts
because of its ability to perform, the value it offered and the
experience of its staff.
''If sheriffs are talking to each other, it's been completely on their own initiative,'' Clay said.
The privatization of medical, dental and mental health services for
prisoners is on the rise across the country as governments seek to cut costs, limit liability and avoid caring directly for an often sickly population, experts say.
In Florida, opportunity exists for more rapid growth. The state
Department of Corrections is now seeking bidders for a five-year
contract to provide comprehensive healthcare services to about 18,000
inmates in 13 prisons in South Florida.
Bids for that contract, estimated to be worth about $385 million, will be opened Nov. 29.
While Armor has no plans to go public, Clay said, it has positioned
itself to do so by registering itself and obtaining a trading symbol,
Florida law generally allows public officials to lobby agencies other
than their own.But behind-the-scenes lobbying by sheriffs raises ethical questions, a University of Miami ethicist said.
''The use of surreptitious lobbying that is unknown to the public and
unregulated by the public seems to be both unwise and arguably wrong,'' said Anthony Alfieri, director of UM's Center for Ethics and Public Service.
Three sheriff's offices changed bid specifications for prison healthcare service contracts in ways that helped Armor win.
• In Broward, BSO opened the door for Armor during the bid process by
dropping its requirement that companies have experience providing
healthcare to inmates. Armor had no experience, and was just three
months old, when Jenne awarded the company its first $127 million
contract in October 2004 to provide healthcare services to Broward's
5,000 inmates during the next five years.
And Armor is owned by Armas, who, through his companies and associates, has been a major contributor to Jenne's reelection campaign.
• In Brevard, Armor won a five-year, $19.9 million contract from Sheriff Parker in May, after Parker's office slightly altered the wording in bid specifications about corporate experience. The changes allowed fledgling Armor to qualify by giving it credit for the experience of individual executives.
• In Hillsborough, Armor snagged a three-year, $65 million contract
following a decision late in the process to eliminate price as a
consideration in picking a winner. Three competitors submitted bids that were millions of dollars less than Armor's. The county's detention chief acknowledged in an interview that the decision was ''unusual,'' but it is not illegal.
Two Florida sheriffs who chose not to hire Armor, St. Lucie's Ken
Mascara and Lee's Mike Scott, said other sheriffs attempted to influence them to hire Armor.
Mascara told the Daily Business Review in March that Jenne called him
last year and recommended Armor.
''He said he knew the guy running it and asked if I would entertain
their bid,'' Mascara recalled.
''We were talking. I brought it up,'' Jenne told the Review. ``I told
him our people were very satisfied with them.''But Jenne offered his favorable opinion before Armor had begun work for BSO.
Jenne has not recommended Armor to other sheriffs, his spokesman said, and the sheriff doesn't believe his statements to Mascara amounted to a recommendation of Armor.
Mascara declined to comment.
LOTS OF PHONE CALLS
Lee County's Sheriff Scott said fellow sheriffs, state senators and a
lobbyist for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, James M.
Spearing Jr., peppered him with calls boosting Armor when Lee County bid out a multimillion-dollar jail healthcare contract in May and June.
''You could call it lobbying,'' said Scott who named Palm Beach's
Bradshaw and Brevard's Parker, as well as ex-Hillsborough Sheriff
Henderson as the ones who called him.
Scott said Armor chief executive Doyle Moore also ``suggested I give Ken Jenne a call, too, but I didn't need to. By that time, I'd made up my mind.''
Scott, who chose to keep his county's incumbent provider,
Tennessee-based Prison Health Services, said some sheriffs, including
Jenne and Parker, had helped Armor by lowering corporate experience
requirements in bid documents.
''As a sheriff, you can relax those things and others did,'' said Scott.
Palm Beach Sheriff Bradshaw ''may have talked about this company'' with Sheriff Scott, said Bradshaw's spokesman Paul Miller.
MIND MADE UP?
Bradshaw, who took office in January, is reviewing all contracts in
search of savings, Miller said. The existing jail healthcare contract
with St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services has a clause that
would allow Bradshaw to opt out early and seek new bids, Miller said.
In September, The Palm Beach Post reported that Bradshaw had sent a team of Armor executives into the jail to review CMS's operations. Sheriff Scott thinks Bradshaw had already made up his mind on a successor''I talked with Ric at length. It was my understanding he was going to shut it down and go with Armor,'' said Scott.
An aide to Brevard Sheriff Parker, Tom Jenkins, acknowledged that Parker talked with Scott about Armor. ''He remembers it more as a reference report on our experience up to that point,'' Jenkins said.
But Armor didn't start work in Brevard until July 1 -- after Scott's
Jenkins said the bid was modified not to benefit any particular company, but ``to allow companies with experienced personnel to be considered.'' ''Nobody asked for it,'' Jenkins said.
to federal corruption charges involving tens of thousands of dollars he allegedly received from sheriff's office contractors and employees. Sheriff for nearly a decade and a former Democratic state senator whom many thought might rise to governor, Jenne pled guilty to one count of mail-fraud conspiracy and three counts of income-tax evasion in federal court.
Jenne was sentenced to a year and a day and is scheduled for a Sept. 29 release.
--the owner of Armor--donated to a series of Republican state candidates, including Governor Charlie Crist.