Bush fires agency chief in sex harassment claims

Terry F. White headed the Department of Elder Affairs.


Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:06 a.m.
Gov. Jeb Bush abruptly fired the secretary of the state Department of Elder Affairs on Wednesday after an investigation determined that allegations of sexual harassment against Terry F. White were credible.
White, 48, who has led the state agency for three years, was notified of his immediate termination in a letter from Denver Stutler Jr., the governor's chief of staff.
He was banned from his agency's headquarters, ordered to turn in his keys and security badge and advised not to talk to any employees.
White couldn't be reached for comment. The action came as Bush was finishing his mission in Asia to help tsunami victims. The governor wrote a letter to White, which was not immediately released.
Bush named Susan Tucker, a deputy secretary for Elder Affairs, as the interim secretary replacing White.
In a memo to Stutler, Raquel Rodriguez, the governor's general counsel, said her office was informed of the allegations against White late on Dec. 30 and began an investigation.
"This investigation lasted several days and included interviews with the secretary, members of the department's senior staff and the persons who made the complaints and were willing to meet with us," Rodriguez said.
Based on those interviews, Rodriguez said she determined the allegations had merit and showed White had violated the governor's policies against sexual harassment in the workplace. She recommended immediate disciplinary action.
But the details of the investigation and the nature of the allegations will remain confidential, said Jacob DiPietre, the governor's press secretary.
Citing a provision in state law, DiPietre said in cases where a harassment victim or victims decide not to file a complaint and ask that any records of the complaint remain confidential, the investigative record is not subject to the public records law.
DiPietre confirmed that the governor decided to fire White after learning of the investigation's findings.
"He was the one who made the final decision," DiPietre said.
A native of Ohio, White came to Florida 11 years ago. A graduate of Ohio State University, he had a lengthy record as an advocate for senior issues.
He worked for a dozen years at the Ohio Department of Aging.
Before becoming Elder Affairs secretary, White worked for nine years as the director of Senior Solutions of Southwest Florida, which is based in Fort Myers and provides elder services in the region, including Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

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