Ms. Adora Obi Nweze
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
P.O. Box 541411
Opa Locka, Florida 33054
Dear President Nweze:
I am writing to respond to the statements you and others made last week regarding alleged racial discrimination and misconduct at the Florida Department of Corrections. While many of the allegations predate my administration, I am committed to addressing and resolving any lingering issues and preventing any that may arise in the future.
Let me be clear: the Department of Corrections does not and will not tolerate any kind of racial misconduct or discrimination by any employee. I am personally offended by racial misconduct and discrimination and pledge to vigorously address and resolve any such allegations within the department.
While I have been secretary, two widely-publicized incidents involving racial misconduct were thoroughly investigated. In the first case, a major at Florida State Prison was demoted to sergeant in December 1999 after a DOC investigation found he used a racial slur in reference to an assistant warden. This demotion resulted in a loss in pay of $18,541 yearly.
The second incident involved Lancaster Correctional Institution. After allegations of racial misconduct involving knotted keychains were brought to my attention, I immediately ordered an investigation at the prison. A dozen DOC inspectors interviewed 347 prison employees, and a parallel investigation was conducted to determine if any racial discrimination in hiring or promotions had taken place. Both investigations were exhaustive and determined that no misconduct or discrimination had occurred. We will continue to monitor Lancaster CI for any sign of activity that may warrant further investigation.
In addition, I am firmly committed to the diversification of the department by hiring more qualified minorities, especially in senior management. As of June 30, 1999, the department had 505 Senior Management Service (SMS) and Select Exempt Service (SES) positions, an increase of 119 positions from June 30, 1998. There are 484 employees in these positions, 66 of whom are African-American. This represents an increase of 116 employees from the previous fiscal year, and an increase of 26 African-Americans.
During 1999, my first full year in office, minorities comprised 35.7 percent of all new hires for Senior Management Service/Select Exempt Service positions. (According to 1999 projections by the Florida Department of Labor, minorities comprised 15.8 percent of the state's total population.)
Capital Outlook, an African-American-owned newspaper in Tallahassee, recently gave the department an "A" grade for racial diversity among employees. A copy of the article is attached.
I cannot comment directly on the various issues raised in the recently-filed lawsuit, in which your organization is a plaintiff. Many of the allegations involve episodes that occurred long before I became secretary. However, I am proud of the record I have compiled since taking office. It is one that will only improve.
Michael W. Moore