Secretary of DOC to leave post by Feb. 1


Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE - The head of the state's largest agency, Department of Corrections secretary James McDonough, is expected to leave his post by the end of this month.

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McDonough

McDonough took over the agency as it suffered through federal and state investigations that culminated in the federal prison sentence of former secretary James V. Crosby for a kickback scheme.

McDonough was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed McDonough as DOC secretary in February 2006 when Crosby was fired. Gov. Charlie Crist called McDonough a "a tremendous public servant.''

"I think the world of the secretary,'' Crist said late Wednesday. "And I always wish him well in whatever endeavors he chooses to pursue. He's just done a great job - a tremendous man of integrity.'' Crist said he had anticipated McDonough's decision and may be ready to name a new secretary as early as next week.

Among the possible replacements is 30-year DOC veteran George Sapp, currently the assistant secretary of institutions.

McDonough had previously served as the state's drug czar for both of Jeb Bush's two terms as governor. He had been a highly decorated Army officer with three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart who served in Vietnam and Bosnia.

McDonough brought a military man's view to the DOC, often rankling correctional officers with his push to tighten dress codes, implement new physical fitness requirements and begin a drug testing program for employees.

"It's no secret that we didn't agree with all of his management decisions, but we never doubted his integrity,'' said David Murrell, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the largest correctional officers union in the state. McDonough fired or demoted dozens of high-ranking DOC officials who he viewed as part of Crosby's lingering culture of cronyism.

Crist credited McDonough with providing firm leadership of the troubled agency during the governor's first year in office. "He really has righted the ship and I'm very grateful to him,'' he said.

"He came in under very difficult circumstances,'' Murrell agreed. "The department was pretty much in a shambles.''

McDonough could not convince lawmakers to increase education and training for inmates to limit their odds of committing more crimes when released. His budget-cutting proposal to release low-risk inmates already on work release in the community was also dismissed by lawmakers.

McDonough also challenged tradition by lowering the costs of phone calls and personal items for inmates.

The agency is the state's largest with more than 27,000 employees working in 137 facilities including 60 prisons. There are about 94,000 inmates in state prisons as well as 153,000 offenders on supervised release under the DOC's watch.

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