Florida mental health administrator resigns over African safari, other ethics concerns

The report says Robert Quam “created a conflict of interest and failed to safeguard his ability to make objective, fair and impartial decisions” by taking a safari trip to Africa in the summer of 2018 with a regional manager for Aramark. (Photo via Office of Inspector General report)
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By: Edan Schultz | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 14, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Director of Mental Health Facilities for Florida has resigned after an Inspector General report found ethical violations, including misuse of state vehicles and conflicts of interest in his interactions with state contractors.

Robert Quam submitted his resignation on Friday, October 4, according to a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families. The allegations against Quam are detailed in a DCF Inspector General report dated October 10.

The report says Quam “created a conflict of interest and failed to safeguard his ability to make objective, fair and impartial decisions” by taking a safari trip to Africa in the summer of 2018 with a regional manager for Aramark.

The trip included safari hunts during which Mr. Quam killed five animals, and a helicopter ride to track a rhinoceros herd. The report includes a photo of the two men together with a tranquilized rhino. The inspector general found Mr. Quam did pay his own way for most of the expenses during the trip. Within the next year, Aramark was awarded more than three million dollars in contracts to provide housekeeping and janitorial services at two state hospitals.

In response to those findings, the IG’s Office of General Counsel said “there is great potential to find ethically problematic behavior.”

Mr. Quam told the inspector general he didn’t think the trip would be unethical since he was paying his own way, and at the time Aramark had no bid in place for the contracts.

The report also found Quam’s office awarding more than $400,000 in state work to a good friend for “on-site consultation services.” At the same time, the friend was renting a room from Mr. Quam for $500 a month.

The purchase orders for the consulting work were split to be no more than $34,999 each, to stay below the threshold at which procurements have to be put up for competitive bidding, according to the IG report. An accounting auditor said there was a “systemic level of negligence” with the purchase orders, and there appeared to be a concerted effort to get money to the friend.

Mr. Quam told the inspector general he was “clueless” about the financial process used to bring his friend on board. He claimed to have no knowledge of the procurement threshold.

Another finding in the report faulted Quam for misusing state vehicles by allowing personal use of those vehicles for himself and his staff. The report details at least 60 trips by Mr. Quam to his homes and his brother’s house that appeared to be personal in nature, totaling more than 25,000 miles.

Mr. Quam told investigators it was his understanding he could use the state vehicle assigned to him as he pleased, within limits, and that is what he did.

The Inspector General’s report recommends several actions in light of the findings, including additional training for staff on purchasing requirements, statewide review of repeat purchase orders to a single vendor for less than $35,000, and training for staff on permissible use of state vehicles.

The IG report also says the investigation was coordinated with FDLE for possible criminal activity. FDLE advised the inspector general’s office they would not initiate a criminal investigation.

“We thank the Inspector General’s Office for their diligence in investigating this matter to bring transparency and accountability to the services we provide our citizens,” said a DCF spokesperson.

Marvin Bailey, former Hospital Administrator at North East Florida State Hospital, has been serving as the acting Director of Mental Health Facilities since Quam resigned.

A PDF file of the full IG report is attached to this article and can be found on this page as "Quam IG report."

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