An 'unfortunate error'


Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10:46 p.m.
Oh, so that's it. It turned out to be "clerical errors" that led to the brother of a top Department of Corrections official getting a $37,166-a-year prison inspector job, a position that he seems to have been wholly unqualified to hold.
It was a "human error," you see, that Rick Clark - a one-time patient-care assistant turned 911 dispatcher turned court bailiff turned (very briefly) Gilchrist County deputy - was given responsibility for sniffing out abuse and misconduct at Taylor Correctional Institute.
Despite the fact that he had virtually no corrections experience and little investigative or law-enforcement experience.
"This was an unfortunate error," explained DOC spokesman Robby Cunningham, "some bad timing."
Well, we certainly agree with the bad timing part.
After all, Clark's older brother, Alan Clark, had himself enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks - from correctional officer to regional director - despite a spotty personnel record involving questionable conduct ranging from off-the-job brawling to allegations of improper use of funds and equipment.
And so far as we can see, Alan Clark had only one thing going for him as he clawed his way to the top: A long friendship with his "mentor," Corrections Secretary James Crosby.
We say he "had" that going for him because Clark the elder is no longer regional director. He abruptly resigned his position recently, just as Floridians learned that the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the DOC for reasons that remain unclear at this writing.
So no question, this is really bad timing for allegations of nepotism at the DOT to rear its ugly head.
Which brings us back to Rick Clark, the kid brother.
Clark the younger has been demoted to a $27,888-a-year job as a corrections officer. This is due, no doubt, to the DOC's timely discovery of the "clerical errors" that led to his erroneous hiring in the first place.
Certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that, since his big brother jumped ship in the wake of a corruption investigation, the running of the DOC is now coming under more intense scrutiny, not only from law enforcement but from the news media.
So let's get this straight once and for all.
"Based on what I know," spokesman Cunningham told The Sun this week, Rick Clark's kinship to Alan Clark "had nothing to do with" the brother being employed at a job for which he had absolutely no qualifications.
Of course, one might reason that if nepotism and favoritism really were going on at DOC, the department's official spokesman would be the last to know it. The one employee who has regular contact with the press is, after all, the one employee who most needs to maintain deniability.
Even so, we are relieved to learn that, based on what the DOC's mouthpiece knows, cronyism is not rampant at the Department of Corrections.
That it's not who you know at DOC that matters. It's what you know.
Which raises another interesting question: Exactly what did the brothers Clark know that made them so inexplicably invaluable to the Department of Corrections.
No doubt, Gov. Jeb Bush is going to want to ask his DOC chief, James Crosby, that very question.

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