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

  • From: Governor Staten <govsta@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:44:06 -0500

It's sensory for sure. NO way is it anything else. I can walk, talk, and think. I believe I'm emotionally stable as well. I mean this as no slight to those who might have emotional disabilities.

On 11/12/2012 9:24 PM, Easy Talk wrote:
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 <mailto:danielbenmoshe1@xxxxxxxxx>
    *To:* tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto: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 <mailto:tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
    *Subject:* [tabi] Fw: article in the Tampa Bay Times on DBS

    ----- Original Message -----
    *From:* Easy Talk <mailto:Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
    *To:* fcb-l@xxxxxxx <mailto: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 blind
    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, it's
    because it is.
    Why? Because the private third-party vendors largely dictate the
    terms and receive
    little oversight, former Division of Blind Services employees say.
    The state agency with a $52 million budget has largely privatized
    its support programs
    as a way to save money and better serve a group of 11,000
    Floridians in need, state
    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 state
    contracts before joining the state agency in 2008, defends the
    division. Under her
    leadership, she says, the division has repaired fragmented
    relationships with vendors
    while implementing stricter penalties for nonperforming providers.
    Hildreth, 65,
    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 providers
    offers a window into the uneven influence the groups have over an
    agency that is
    supposed to oversee them.
    Their joint mission is to line up ways to help blind Floridians
    manage their disability
    from infancy to old age. The division and its outsourced vendors
    train blind people
    for everyday tasks from using a cane to pouring water without
    spilling. The division
    also operates a program to help blind people find jobs.
    At the meeting, state workers and the vendors appear to be
    business partners, according
    to several current and former employees who have attended. But the
    vendors decide
    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 former
    contract manager who was fired in 2010 after he criticized the
    "lack of meat" in
    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 yearly
    unscheduled visits, the state only visited one vendor last year,
    documents show.
    Hildreth said the agency monitors the vendors by phone.
    Loosely written contracts also allow vendors to make big money by
    taking advantage
    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 money
    comes in all the same.
    During the 2012 legislative session the division asked for and
    received more than
    $540,000 in additional money to provide care for 201 blind babies
    on a state waiting
    list. But the vendors already received funding from nonprofit
    groups to cover the
    expenses associated with 172 of the same babies, documents show.
    What's more, the state pays vendors based on their plans for
    service, documenting
    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
    . . .
    Hildreth says the state actually underpays vendors, which have to
    raise money from
    outside sources to cover their costs.
    The biggest vendors, all nonprofits, include LightHouse of Central
    Florida, Tampa
    LightHouse for the Blind, LightHouse of Pinellas and Miami
    LightHouse for the Blind.
    Top employees make upward of $200,000 per year, according to
    Internal Revenue Service
    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 it,"
    said Colleen Castille, a lobbyist for the vendor trade group, the
    Florida Association
    of Agencies Serving the Blind.
    Gov. Rick Scott, who has sought to privatize government services
    at an accelerated
    pace since taking office, has talked about strengthening contract
    transparency and
    But state officials have done little to address contracting
    The state's chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, has audited
    three of the Division
    of Blind Services' contracts and found them deficient, said
    spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos,
    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 if
    they are bad.
    "If state agencies opt not to make critical changes to contracts
    post-audit, taxpayers
    will be on the losing end," Alexopoulos said.
    A May report for the agency's inspector general, which does
    independent government
    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 the
    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 contracting
    procedures. State officials know they need to address contracts,
    he said. The question
    is how.
    State contracts are "a problem across the board, this isn't just
    Blind Services"
    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 we're
    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 said.
    "But what I found out is ... nobody is listening."
    Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at (850) 323-0353 or bdavis@
    [Last modified: Nov 12, 2012 07:06 AM]
    Copyright 2012 Tampa Bay Times

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