THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Feb. 22, 2011 --
The new director of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities abruptly resigned late Monday, amid questions about his oversight of a controversial Tampa area group home that allowed sex between residents.
Carl Littlefield, a former lawmaker who was appointed to the post Feb. 4, sent a brief letter to Gov. Rick Scott that gave no explanation for stepping down. He said he was "greatly honored and humbled" to be chosen to work in Scott's administration.
"However, after careful consideration, I request to withdraw as a nominee to serve as the director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and will step down from this position effective immediately,'' Littlefield wrote in the letter, which was released to the public Tuesday morning.
The online news organization Florida Tribune had reported earlier that Littlefield could face difficulty getting confirmed by the Senate because of the controversy about a Hillsborough County group home called the Human Development Center.
Before getting appointed as APD director, Littlefield was an agency administrator in the Tampa Bay area. The St. Petersburg Times has reported extensively about male residents of the home being allowed to have sex in their rooms. The practice allegedly led to abuse of some residents who couldn't protect themselves.
Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican who is chairwoman of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, has been particularly critical of the group home's operations and APD's oversight of it. Storms likely would have been an influential player in determining whether Littlefield would get confirmed.
Littlefield was scheduled to appear before Storms' committee Tuesday morning.
Agency heads can start serving before they get confirmed. It is rare --- though not unprecedented --- for senators to reject gubernatorial appointments.
The Agency for Persons With Disabilities serves people who have developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. Scott named Littlefield to replace Jim DeBeaugrine, a former legislative staffer who appeared to have the respect of many lawmakers.
APD has faced years of financial troubles, regularly running deficits and leading lawmakers to try to limit services. Scott's 2011-12 budget proposal, for example, called for cutting rates up to 8.4 percent for many APD contractors and called for privatizing state facilities run by the agency.
Scott also said Tuesday he has ordered an inspector general’s audit of APD’d finances because of the deficits, but said little about Littlefield’s resignation.
"We have budgets, and we're going to have agencies that live within their budgets,'' Scott said.
[UPDATE] 2-22 1:28pm -- TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --
Gov. Rick Scott's pick to head the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities has resigned amid questions about sexual activities at a group home overseen by the agency.
Scott on Tuesday also said he's ordered an investigation into
overspending by the agency.
Carl Littlefield resigned Monday night. He was scheduled to
appear Tuesday before a Senate committee looking into allegations
of sex among residents of a group home in the Hillsborough County
town of Seffner.
Littlefield, a former state legislator, was administrator for an
area that included the group home before Scott promoted him to
agency head on Feb. 4.
Gov. Scott Budget Overrun Presser with Littlefield resignation reaction.
Lawmakers want to shut down a state-funded group home accused of encouraging its mentally disabled residents to have sex. The accusations against the Human Development Center in Seffner, near Tampa, are from 2008. State Senator Ronda Storms investigated the claims and says caregivers would send male patients into rooms, give them condoms, and shut the door. Storms says the Agency for Persons With Disabilities, the agency in charge of oversight, was slow to respond to the sex scandal.
“Did they do any on site immediate inspections? Did they do any announced visits? Did they go do any monitoring? The answer to that question is, no,” said Storms.
Random visits by state investigators have been increased at the home, but lawmakers want the state funding eliminated and the patients moved.