[tabi] Re: Fw: article in the Tampa Bay Times on DBS

  • From: "Easy Talk" <Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:24:28 -0500

Well if that happens, it is about time.  I am actually suppressed the article 
did get published and I know for a fact the reporter was given much more 
information and her editor made her trim it down but maybe this will be the 
first of many.  As the article said it isn't only DBS and it also refers to how 
little the public knows about DBS so you can imagine how rampent the problem is.

The Faasby members don't have to go through competitive bidding since they are 
non profits that are exempt by state statute for agencies that provide services 
to the mentally and physically disabled.  I guess the state considers people 
who are blind either mentally or physically disabled which pisses me off.  I 
might have a sensory disability but it isn't mental or physical so how does the 
FAASB members qualify for the exemption.

So what do you all think, Is blindness physical or sensory.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Daniel Ben Moshe 
  To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 7:29 PM
  Subject: [tabi] Re: Fw: article in the Tampa Bay Times on DBS

  Oh boy sounds like the fat is going to be in the fire here soon. If this 
story grows legs somebody is in big trouble. I think it's going to get real 
ugly I'LL give this a few months.    

  From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf 
Of Easy Talk
  Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 4:21 PM
  To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  Subject: [tabi] Fw: article in the Tampa Bay Times on DBS

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Easy Talk 
  To: fcb-l@xxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 4:19 PM
  Subject: article in the Tampa Bay Times on DBS

  TALLAHASSEE - Looking for a lesson in how government outsourcing is working 
in Florida?
  Try this: Organizations that win business with the little-known state 
Division of
  Blind Services can bill taxpayers $58 an hour for travel time to meet with a 
  person. The same organizations can charge taxpayers $2,000 or more to place 
one phone
  If the deal sounds good for the groups that win the no-bid state contracts, 
  because it is.
  Why? Because the private third-party vendors largely dictate the terms and 
  little oversight, former Division of Blind Services employees say.
  The state agency with a $52 million budget has largely privatized its support 
  as a way to save money and better serve a group of 11,000 Floridians in need, 
  officials say.
  But the results are mixed, at best.
  Employee complaints about the Division of Blind Services have spawned at 
least three
  government investigations and four whistle-blower lawsuits, all alleging 
waste on
  some scale.
  Blind Services director Joyce Hildreth, who worked at a group that received 
  contracts before joining the state agency in 2008, defends the division. 
Under her
  leadership, she says, the division has repaired fragmented relationships with 
  while implementing stricter penalties for nonperforming providers. Hildreth, 
  earns $119,000.
  "My expectation of both (the vendors) and the division staff is that they 
will work
  together to the benefit of the client," she said.
  The record, however, isn't so clear-cut.
  . . .
  An annual summer meeting between the state and 16 Division of Blind Services 
  offers a window into the uneven influence the groups have over an agency that 
  supposed to oversee them.
  Their joint mission is to line up ways to help blind Floridians manage their 
  from infancy to old age. The division and its outsourced vendors train blind 
  for everyday tasks from using a cane to pouring water without spilling. The 
  also operates a program to help blind people find jobs.
  At the meeting, state workers and the vendors appear to be business partners, 
  to several current and former employees who have attended. But the vendors 
  the performance criteria and penalties.
  "I tried to get (the vendors) to suggest how we could get a mechanism in 
place so
  we don't feed their coffers and have poor service," said Jerry Edwards, a 
  contract manager who was fired in 2010 after he criticized the "lack of meat" 
  the contracts. "The attitude, from Joyce and from (the vendors) of not 
wanting to
  go there, was a real problem."
  Signs of waste are everywhere, former employees Edwards, Julius Kimmie, 
Robert Irons
  and Mary Ellen Ottman said in separate interviews.
  Although the law requires state workers to monitor all 16 providers through 
  unscheduled visits, the state only visited one vendor last year, documents 
  Hildreth said the agency monitors the vendors by phone.
  Loosely written contracts also allow vendors to make big money by taking 
  of loopholes, the former employees say.
  A provider, for example, is paid from about $2,000 to $9,000 per month for 
each person
  it plans to serve. The state pays the money no matter how - or how many times 
- a
  provider helps a client.
  So whether a provider makes 10 in-house visits, or just one phone call, the 
  comes in all the same.
  During the 2012 legislative session the division asked for and received more 
  $540,000 in additional money to provide care for 201 blind babies on a state 
  list. But the vendors already received funding from nonprofit groups to cover 
  expenses associated with 172 of the same babies, documents show.
  What's more, the state pays vendors based on their plans for service, 
  only time spent and making no attempt to measure results.
  "The (vendors) call all the shots," said Ottman, a former employee who tried 
to raise
  red flags about the contracts to state officials. She quit in September.
  . . .
  Hildreth says the state actually underpays vendors, which have to raise money 
  outside sources to cover their costs.
  The biggest vendors, all nonprofits, include LightHouse of Central Florida, 
  LightHouse for the Blind, LightHouse of Pinellas and Miami LightHouse for the 
  Top employees make upward of $200,000 per year, according to Internal Revenue 
  Representatives for the vendors say they're interested in helping blind 
people, not
  making money.
  "Everyone has to remember this is about providing services to people who need 
  said Colleen Castille, a lobbyist for the vendor trade group, the Florida 
  of Agencies Serving the Blind.
  Gov. Rick Scott, who has sought to privatize government services at an 
  pace since taking office, has talked about strengthening contract 
transparency and
  But state officials have done little to address contracting complaints.
  The state's chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, has audited three of the 
  of Blind Services' contracts and found them deficient, said spokeswoman Anna 
  citing "significant issues in the management."
  Yet Atwater, whose agency signs the contract checks, only has the authority 
to question
  the prices after the contracts are implemented. He can't void contracts, even 
  they are bad.
  "If state agencies opt not to make critical changes to contracts post-audit, 
  will be on the losing end," Alexopoulos said.
  A May report for the agency's inspector general, which does independent 
  investigations, criticized Hildreth for inappropriately managing contracts 
and punishing
  workers. Hildreth says those criticisms are unsubstantiated, both in 
interviews and
  with her staff.
  In the state's complicated management structure, the division is overseen by 
  Department of Education.
  Former Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who resigned in August, said 
he spoke
  with Hildreth about complaints from employees, but not about the division's 
  procedures. State officials know they need to address contracts, he said. The 
  is how.
  State contracts are "a problem across the board, this isn't just Blind 
  Robinson said.
  Pam Stewart, the interim education commissioner who replaced Robinson, 
largely agreed.
  "We do take seriously the need to look at all of our contracts and make sure 
  getting the best return on our investment," she said. "We are already moving 
in that
  Former state employees see it differently.
  "I contacted lawyers, my senator, the NAACP, Fox News and the FBI," Kimmie 
  "But what I found out is . nobody is listening."
  Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at (850) 323-0353 or bdavis@ tampabay.com.
  [Last modified: Nov 12, 2012 07:06 AM]
  Copyright 2012 Tampa Bay Times

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