FSU finds no impropriety in dealings with DCF


Published: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 10:41 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - A Florida State University audit found no impropriety in the way the school secured more than $4 million in state social service contracts, but did find lapses in paperwork and record keeping.
The internal audit comes after the head of Florida's Department of Children & Families, Jerry Regier, resigned in August amid questions about how the agency awarded contracts to university and private contractors.
One criticism was that contracts went to Florida State because of close ties between top DCF administrators and the university's lead social policy researcher, James A. Bax.
An inspector general's report found that Regier and other DCF officials attended a birthday party for Regier hosted by Bax, who was director of the Florida State University Institute for Health and Human Services Research. The institute at the time had nearly $2 million in contract work from DCF. On another occasion, Regier and his wife stayed overnight at Bax's Longboat Key beach home.
The audit finds no improper actions by the university in getting the DCF contracts and does not fault Bax for his friendship with Regier and other top DCF officials. But it does say Bax did not act in the university's best interest in hiring an Orlando consultant to perform work for DCF when the state found it couldn't directly hire the man under state purchasing rules.
The audit also said Bax should have disclosed his ties to Edmetrics, a Florida software company where he once served as a director. The audit found two contracts under Bax where Edmetrics provided "contract related services."
However, the audit did not find that any university funds were directed to Edmetrics.
Bax said Thursday the audit clears him. "Four million dollars (in contracts) went through the Institute. They didn't cite one dollar that was misspent," he said."Not a nickel. Not a penny. Although they raise issues about Edmetrics, not one penny, one nickel, one cent went from FSU to Edmetrics. As far as I'm concerned, we kept our books. We did it right."
The audit also found that contract expenditures for a Jacksonville mental health project were "reasonable and appropriate," even though a DCF report determined that only about $55,000 of more than $500,000 paid to the university was spent directly on clients. DCF's top mental health administrator resigned in October after the report's completion.
The "excess administrative costs" for the project were largely caused by salaries for workers that should have been attributed to direct client services, the audit showed. The audit recommended that methods of keeping records of contract costs be implemented.
"It looks to me like most of the things can be resolved," said Robert Bradley, Florida State's associate vice president for academic affairs. "It'll take a few months, but I think we can get them all right."

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