February 10th, 2006
James Crosby "Resigns"
State Corrections Secretary James Crosby was ousted Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush following months of questions about illegal activities by guards and top officials in the prison system.
I want to thank all of the FDOC employees who provided information during the recent exposure of department injustice/corruption/neglect for your most excellent help. The FBI/FDLE investigation into wrongdoing continues, but, with the assistance of the media, your efforts to oust James Crosby have been successful.
Secretary James Crosby has just been asked to resign the Florida Department of 'Corrections' by Governor Jeb Bush.
Of course the battle for a better work environment is not over, but if we keep our eyes on the interum secretary James McDonough and judge him fairly, it is the best beginning we could have gotten. We continue to wait for the official Secretary to be appointed. Hopefully we won't get one of the other Good Ol' Boys. Keep in touch.
With gratitude for a job well done
2683 Rockcliff Road Southeast
Atlanta, Georgia 30316
Making The Walls Transparent
Corrections chief resigns
By KAREN VOYLES
Sun Staff Writer
February 10. 2006 12:51PMWith criminal investigations of the state prisons ongoing, Gov. Jeb Bush released the head of the Florida prison system Friday.
James Crosby turned in his resignation as Secretary of the Department of Corrections at Bush’s request. He had worked for the department since 1975.
Crosby is being replaced on an interim basis by James McDonough who had been director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control since 1999.
Drug problems involving prison employees are what first drew public attention to the questionable behavior of some prison employees.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the prisons on several matters.
After several correctional officers were arrested in connection with a scheme to import steroids from Egypt, other problems surfaced. Among the allegations under investigation by federal and state agencies are those concerning people being hired only to play on sports teams and not to work, cronyism in promotions, embezzlement of employee club and recycling center funds and illegal use of inmate labor and state property.
Head Of Fla. Prison System Resigns
POSTED: 12:47 pm EST February 10, 2006
UPDATED: 1:39 pm EST February 10, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The secretary of State Corrections was ousted Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush following months of questions about illegal activities by guards and top officials in the prison system.
James Crosby, a former warden at Florida State Prison, had headed the nation's third largest corrections system since January of 2003.
The department is under intense scrutiny after the arrests for steroid abuse and accusations of sexual assault, and the arrest of an employee allegedly hired only to help a Florida prison softball team.
Bush had expressed confidence in Crosby's leadership in recent months and didn't elaborate in a brief statement released today on his reasons for demanding that Crosby quit.
Bush named James McDonough as interim secretary. McDonough has served as the director of Bush's Drug Control office since 1999.
Crosby had worked his way up through the prison system, starting in 1975.
Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.
Head of Florida prison system resigns under pressure
The Associated Press
Feb 10, 2:09 PM EST
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- State Corrections Secretary James Crosby was ousted Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush after he became part of a wide-ranging investigation into possible criminal activity among prison system employees.
Crosby, a former warden at Florida State Prison, had headed the nation's third largest corrections system since January 2003. The governor didn't provide details about why he told Crosby to step down, but a spokesman said Crosby was a subject of the probe.
"It would be inappropriate to comment as this is a matter of an ongoing investigation," Bush spokesman Russell Schweiss said. "We have been cooperating with law enforcement and the governor took action when it was appropriate to do so."
In recent months, the department had been under intense scrutiny in the face of arrests for steroid abuse and accusations of sexual assault, and the arrest of an employee allegedly hired only to help a Florida prison softball
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been conducting an investigation on several matters involving department employees, but FDLE officials have declined to comment on the exact nature of their probe.
Crosby didn't return a call to his home Friday. An FDLE spokesman said he didn't have any information on the matter.
Bush had expressed confidence in Crosby's leadership in recent months.
"I am deeply saddened and disappointed at the need to take this action," Bush said in a brief statement.
Bush named James McDonough as interim secretary. McDonough has served as the director of Bush's Drug Control office since 1999.
Crosby had worked his way up through the prison system, starting in 1975. During his tenure as warden of Florida State Prison, he was under the spotlight when guards were accused of beating prisoner Frank Valdes to death. The guards were later cleared of wrongdoing. Crosby implemented changes after the case, including requiring video taping of certain activities, such as when guards have to remove a prison from a cell.
As secretary, Crosby had to deal in 2004 with questions about the probation system, which is part of the Corrections Department. He fired a probation officer and three supervisors for missing key opportunities to lock up a violent ex-convict who was later accused of masterminding a home invasion
massacre of six people.
Last year, a new series of problems cropped up at the department, including a brawl that broke out at a softball banquet in Tallahassee in April. Three DOC officials faced charges in connection with the fight, although some charges have since been dropped.
One of the top officials under Crosby at the agency, Allen Clark, was one of those charged in connection with the brawl, and he resigned in August.
Clark reportedly was at the center of the state and federal investigation into various issues at the agency.
Also, four corrections officer have pleaded guilty to taking part in a prison-based steroids distribution ring. Several of the guards involved in the steroid case played on a prison softball team coached by Clark.
In an another embarrassing incident last year, a former minor league baseball player was arrested after it was alleged he was hired to work at the agency simply to play on the softball team, and didn't perform a real job at the prison where he was an "employee."
© 2006 The Associated Press.
Bush fires state prison system chief
Governor cites ongoing investigations
By John Kennedy
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Tallahassee Bureau
February 11, 2006
TALLAHASSEE * The embattled chief of Florida's prison system was abruptly fired Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush, after months of investigations into illegal activities by guards and top officials.
James Crosby, who grew up in the shadow of Florida State Prison and led the nation's third-largest corrections system since January 2003, was ousted by Bush just a few months after the governor publicly expressed confidence in his leadership.
"I am deeply saddened and disappointed at the need to take this action," Bush said in a terse statement.
Bush did not elaborate on what prompted him to ask for Crosby's resignation. When asked about the decision Friday afternoon in Miami, the governor cited a broad state and federal investigation into the Corrections Department.
"There's an ongoing investigation. I can't speak of the details, but today was the appropriate time that we were given the chance to take action," Bush said. "As the details come out, it'll be clear that it was the appropriate thing to do."
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been investigating the agency for months. Eight corrections officers have been charged with illegally using and importing steroids, embezzlement and other crimes, while investigations also examine whether inmates were forced to do work personally for guards and officials.
Crosby last fall voluntarily gave investigators items they requested from his Tallahassee home: a leaf blower, a firewood rack and a ladder.
Jeff Westcott, an FBI spokesman, said Friday that his agency's investigation of the department was "still ongoing" and refused to discuss details. FDLE spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha would confirm only that the agency has "an active investigation."
Crosby, 53, did not return a message left on his cell phone. He offered no clues in a short resignation letter, in which he merely thanked Bush for allowing him to serve. "I have greatly enjoyed serving under your tremendous leadership and working with a first class group of colleagues," Crosby wrote.
Bush named Jim McDonough, the director of the governor's Office of Drug Control, as interim Corrections secretary.
One of Crosby's top deputies and friends, former Region I Director Allen Clark, had already stepped down in August from his post overseeing 18 major prisons in the Panhandle. Clark was one of three current and former officers charged in connection with an April Fool's Day brawl at a softball banquet.
Also last year, other corrections employees were arrested for fighting at a Starke bar, and another guard, a former minor league baseball player, was arrested after being accused of doing nothing but play on a prison softball team. Still another corrections officer committed suicide after being implicated, but never charged, in an alleged sexual assault.
Crosby last fall began a major crackdown on bad behavior within the agency, a move that had successfully kept it out of the headlines until Friday.
"We don't know what details the governor may have learned," said David Murrell, of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents corrections officers. "But we know he would not make such a move without a lot of consistent information that something was wrong."
Crosby earned $124,000 a year as chief of the department, which has 20,000 employees and oversees 86,000 inmates.
He began his career as an inmate classification specialist more than three decades ago and rose through the ranks.
Copyright (c) 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Visit Sun-Sentinel.comCorrections head Crosby forced out
Article published Feb 11, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush dismissed Department of Corrections Secretary James V. Crosby Friday as state law enforcement agents secured his office for investigation purposes.
A multi-pronged federal and state investigation into the agency is in its second year. Though officials with the statewide prosecutor 's office, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said there had been no new arrests or indictments related to the agency or Crosby on Friday, sources close to the investigation said indictments were likely in the near future.
Crosby, 53, made $124,320 in the position he held since January 2003.
For months, the governor has been effusively supportive of Crosby as controversies increased within the department. That support apparently evaporated quickly in recent days. Bush asked for Crosby's resignation Friday morning. Crosby was notified of the governor's decision with a call from a member of Crosby's staff to his cell phone while he was driving. Crosby had little to say Friday afternoon.
"This is happening pretty fast and I really don't have a lot of information," he said.
At the same time Crosby was turning in his resignation letter Friday morning, agents of the FDLE took charge of his office and inventoried the contents, according to sources close to the investigation.
Bush's office gave no reason for the dismissal other than a statement from spokeswoman Alia Faraj: "We have been cooperating with law enforcement and the governor acted as soon as it was appropriate."
In a statement, Bush said, "Today, I asked for, and received, the resignation of James Crosby, Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. I am deeply saddened and disappointed at the need to take this action."
In his resignation letter, Crosby thanked Bush for "allowing me to serve. I have greatly enjoyed serving under your tremendous leadership and working with a first class group of colleagues."
Bush named James R. McDonough, the director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control, as interim DOC secretary.
Bush's office notified lawmakers and others of the decision Friday morning with a series of phone calls.
Sen. Victor Crist, a Tampa Republican who is chairman of the Senate Justice Appropriations committee, said he wasn't surprised by the dismissal "given the level of unrest and the ongoing investigations."
"It's kind of hard to keep people in positions when they're being investigated, especially when you may need to go in and see the files and their offices and you want to have everything intact," Crist said.
Crist echoed the feelings of most lawmakers, saying Crosby had been an effective political advocate for the department.
"I really don't have a negative thing to say at all about the man," Crist said.
David Murrell is executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the state's largest correctional officers union. He said Crosby was a good advocate for the employees, but may have been too loyal to some who are in the middle of the investigations.
"He knew the department, maybe too well," Murrell said. "He may not have been as much of a details person as much as he could have been. Sometime s he didn't pay attention to details that he should have."
Crosby is a son of the Iron Triangle, the rural section of North Florida that is home to many of the state's prisons. He was born in Gainesville, graduated from Branford High School and was mayor of Starke.
He began working at the department in 1975 after graduating from the University of Florida with a journalism degree. He rose rapidly as a warden for a number of institutions. With a completely bald head and a stocky build, Crosby was an affable, high-profile ambassador for an agency frequently hit by scandal in recent decades.
Crosby schmoozed lawmakers and other politicians and was active in Republican politics, attending national conventions and local events.
State and federal investigators began scrutinizing the department after local agencies found evidence of a steroids ring among DOC employees in late 2003.
The first arrests were made in early 2005 when current and former DOC em ployees were charged with distributing steroids.
Crosby was very close friends with Region I director Allen Clark, even serving as a witness at Clark's marriage. Clark resigned his position in late August as the investigation spread.
Late last year, FDLE investigators seized property owned by Crosby, Clark and others after allegations were made that inmates had illegally performed work for the men.
Another former DOC employee, Mark Guerra, was arrested for theft last year after he allegedly was paid to play softball for the Apalachee Correctional Institution team while not reporting to his job as a librarian.
Clark and two other current DOC employees were arrested last year on felony charges of assault after the three allegedly beat a former DOC employee at a Tallahassee softball banquet. Those charges were dropped this year.
Other incidents in the past year included the suicide of a DOC employee after an allegation of rape and arrests related to embezzling from the agency.
And just this week, DOC officials said the agency was reviewing a controversial outsourcing of pharmaceutical packaging after lawmakers and auditors ripped the agency for lax oversight.
Beyond his associations with the controversial Clark and the myriad missteps in his agency last year, Crosby endured other situations that called his leadership into question.
Crosby was the warden of Florida State Prison when correctional officers allegedly beat Death Row inmate Frank Valdes to death in 1999. They were later found not guilty.
But Bush named Crosby secretary of the state's largest agency in January 2003 after rank and file members rebelled against Secretary Michael Moore. Moore came to the DOC from stints in Texas and South Carolina and was eschewed as an outsider.
A former prison lieutenant, who retired 10 years early because of a run-in with Crosby's protege Clark, said Crosby's departure would be a blessing to the department.
"Having him leave shows they are making a good, honest effort," said Kevin Dean of Chiefland. "Hopefully, the department is not so far gone that they cannot bring someone in to clean it up."
The president of the correctional officer chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, Jim Baiardi, said Crosby's resignation "was a shock to a lot of officers. Even though he may not have been liked by everybody, they felt safe because he knew corrections and how the prison system needed to run."
With Bush's term ending in January, Murrell said McDonough would likely remain as the head of DOC until a new governor could select a new secretary in January.
Murrell said the lessons of Moore's tumultuous tenure should lead the next governor to select someone with knowledge of the DOC.
"I think an insider with a clean nose would be nice," Murrell said.
Joe Follick writes for the Sun Tallahassee Bureau and can be reached at (850) 224-3 309. Karen Voyles writes for The Gainesville Sun and can be reached at (352) 486-5058.
State's chief of prisons is out of job
http://www.sptimes.com/2006/02/11/State/State_s_chief_of_pris.shtmlBy JENNIFER LIBERTO, LUCY MORGAN, LETITIA STEIN and CANDACE RONDEAUX
St Petersburg Times
Published February 11, 2006James Crosby has been at the center of several inquiries into his leadership. Bush hints at new allegations.TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush oustedcorrections chief James V. Crosby Jr. Friday as state agents sealed his office and state and federal grand juries deepened their investigations into the state prison system.
Crosby, 53, spent most of 2005 defending the Department of Corrections and himself against a startling array of allegations that ranged from misusing inmate labor to hiring phantom employees. And throughout the year, Bush was a staunch supporter, defending Crosby publicly and encouraging him in private.
Something changed on Friday.
"I can't speak of the details, but today was the appropriate time that we were given the chance to take action," Bush said at a news conference in Miami. "I'm saddened and really disappointed, but I had to do it.
"But as the details come out, it'll be clear that it was the appropriate thing to do."
Crosby, reached by phone Friday afternoon, declined to comment and referred all questions to the governor's office.
Bush named James McDonough, formerly director of Drug Control, as interim secretary.
For months, Crosby has been at the center of widening state and federal investigations into the way he and several of his subordinates conducted themselves. Authorities have accused prison officials of selling steroids, embezzling state money, false employment practices and even assault in recent months.
A federal grand jury in Jacksonville and theStatewide Grand Jury have been conducting separate investigations of prison officials, according to court files and police records obtained by the Times.
"There is an ongoing investigation into the Department of Corrections, and we can't discuss individuals," said Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Jeff Westcott in Jacksonville.
Westcott agreed that the joint FDLE and FBI investigation included aspects that have not been reported thus far in the media but declined to give details about new lines of inquiry.
Tom Berlinger, spokesman for the FDLE, also refused to comment on the state's continuing investigation.
Crosby was not the first top prisonto be pushed out.
In August, Allen W. Clark, a top aide to Crosby, resigned as state and federal investigators questioned steroid trafficking among prison guards and items purchased by guards with money that was supposed to be used for the benefit of prisons.
Several corrections officers have been charged with felonies and agents from the FDLE have seized vehicles and trailers belonging to employees in six Northcounties.
Last week, a former state corrections officer who managed the state prison's recycling program pleaded guilty to embezzling from a recycling center and for his part in an anabolic steroid ring in which he sold the drugs to fellow officers and others.
Crosby himself knew he was being investigated. Last fall, he surrendered to investigators three items they sought from his Tallahassee home: a metal rack used to hold firewood, a leaf blower and a ladder. Investigators declined at the time to say why they wanted the items.
A onetime Democrat turned Republican and former mayor of Starke, Crosby has better political connections than most who have run the state's oft troubled prison system.
Crosby, known for his gregarious nature, has served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and is a frequent contributor to state campaigns.
He had been chosen by Bush in 2003 to right a troubled ship. The Department of Corrections had lived through one rocky tenure and Bush selected the politically astute Crosby, a career man in the agency, to bring back credibility.
As the criticism mounted against Crosby, Bush stood firm.
"He's a good man. He's done a good job," Bush said last fall. "There are times when there is a piling on and a frenzy and sometimes the inclination in public life is to cut and run, and throw the guy off the boat. I'm not that kind of person."
In addition to the criminal investigations, Crosby has taken heat for his relationships with companies doing business with the department. His awarding of no-bid contracts, such as one to Keefe Commissary Network, raised questions in part because of time Crosby spent with that company's lobbyist, Don Yeaeger.
Crosby insisted that he had paid his own way on their trips to sporting events and concerts.
But things did not get better for Crosby. On Monday, he was grilled by lawmakers who had an auditor general's report on problems with how the agency handled a pharmaceutical contract.
On Friday, however, those same lawmakers said they hadn't expected this.
"I would be shocked to find out that (Crosby) would be directly involved with anything illegal," said Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.
Not everyone was surprised to hear of the forced resignation.
RetiredState Prison warden Ron McAndrew has publicly criticized Crosby for "corrupting" the department.
"What was a wonderful organization just a few years ago is a shambles now thanks to the practices of Mr. Crosby," McAndrew said.
--Times staff writer Alex Leary and researcher Angie Holan Drobnic contributed to this report.
[Last modified February 11, 2006, 01:15:18]
State prisons chief forced out amid probe
By Dara Kam
Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Saturday, February 11, 2006
TALLAHASSEE — Florida Department of Corrections Secretary James Crosby abruptly resigned Friday, forced out by Gov. Jeb Bush in the wake of a sweeping state and federal investigation into alleged criminal activity by state prison workers.
Crosby's resignation, requested by Bush, was effective immediately. Bush tapped Florida drug czar James McDonough to head the nation's third-largest prison system in the midst of the ongoing investigation that spreads from Jacksonville to the Panhandle and encompasses allegations regarding softball, steroids, suicide and the misuse of prison labor.
"I asked for the resignation of Secretary Crosby," Bush said Friday in Miami. "There's an ongoing investigation. I can't speak of the details, but today was the appropriate time that we were given the chance to take action. I'm saddened and really disappointed, but I had to do it. But as the details come out, it'll be clear that it was the appropriate thing to do."
Bush spokesman Russell Schweiss said Crosby has become a subject of the probe.
In his resignation letter, Crosby made no reference to the investigation, and he thanked Bush.
"I have greatly enjoyed serving under your tremendous leadership and working with a first class group of colleagues," he wrote.
Crosby, 53, refused to comment when reached on his cellphone Friday.
He has spent more than three decades working in Florida's prison system, culminating in his $124,000-a-year appointment as secretary in 2003.
During his three-year tenure as warden of Florida State Prison in his hometown of Starke, he was under the spotlight in 1999 when guards were accused of fatally beating prisoner Frank Valdes, who was awaiting execution for the shooting death of Palm Beach County corrections officer Fred Griffis in 1987. The guards were charged but not convicted. Crosby implemented changes after the case, including requiring videotaping of certain activities, such as when guards have to remove a prison from a cell.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI are conducting a widening probe into alleged criminal activity by DOC employees, ranging from stealing from a prison recycling program to distributing anabolic steroids within the prison system.
Federal investigators confirmed Friday that the three-year investigation of DOC is ongoing, but would not comment on Crosby's involvement or his resignation. An FBI spokesman said that the agency is investigating "other avenues" apart from the steroid ring.
An FDLE spokeswoman also refused to comment on Crosby but confirmed that they "have an active investigation going on of DOC employees in general."
Among their investigations is whether officials improperly used prison labor to work on their personal vehicles and homes. In that investigation, FDLE agents have seized a ladder, a leaf blower and a firewood rack from Crosby's home. They also seized vehicles and utility trailers belonging to six prison administrators and guards.
Crosby's exit comes less than a year after his close friend and protégé, Allen Clark, abruptly quit his job administering 14 prisons less than three months after being arrested on charges relating to a brawl that took place at a DOC softball banquet in Tallahassee.
Crosby, an avid softball fan, presided over the softball tournament from a golf cart.
Charges against Clark and two others were dropped by Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs 10 days ago.
Five former guards have pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in the steroid ring, and two other guards were charged in June with stealing from a prison recycling program.
In October, state law-enforcement officers arrested a onetime minor-league baseball player and former guard at Apalachee Correctional Institution, where investigators say he was given a no-show job to play on the prison softball team.
That same month, New River Corrections Capt. Keith Davison was fired after a party at the Florida State Prison's Bachelors Officer Quarters where a woman was sexually assaulted. Davison later died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Governor fires prisons boss amid widening investigation
The head of Florida's prisons system was fired Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush after becoming the target of an ongoing criminal investigation.
BY GARY FINEOUT AND MARC CAPUTO
Posted on Sat, Feb. 11, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - James Crosby, who rose through the ranks to head Florida's prison system, was abruptly fired by Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday as a widespread corruption probe appeared to target the very man who was supposed to clean up the department.
For more than a year, Crosby has watched close associates and guards in the nation's third-largest prison system reel from convictions, arrests, search warrants and reports concerning a steroid-selling ring, theft of state property, misuse of inmate labor, a no-show job for a prison-league softball player, a drunken brawl at a law-enforcement banquet and a mysterious suicide of a prison captain accused of raping an underling.
Bush, noting the ''ongoing investigation'' by state and federal law enforcement, didn't say why he suddenly removed Crosby from his job as as state secretary of corrections.
''As the details come out, it'll be clear that it was the appropriate thing to do,'' Bush said in Miami. ``I can't speak of the details, but today was the appropriate time that we were given the chance to take action. I'm saddened and really disappointed, but I had to do it.''
Bush replaced Crosby with a prison outsider: Florida drug czar Jim McDonough, a decorated war veteran and author.
Florida law-enforcement agents sealed off Crosby's Tallahassee office after he resigned, sources said, noting that Crosby soon left town to visit his parents near the town of Starke, where he was once mayor.
Sources also said agents removed some items from Crosby's office and sealed a storage room in the administrative building with evidence tape.
Crosby did not return calls for comment.
As late as this week, Crosby told associates that he was probably in the clear -- a guess premised on discussions he had with Bush since the fall. At that time, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials began using search warrants to seize property -- primarily automotive parts and trailers -- from guards close to Crosby. One of them: Crosby's right-hand man and best friend, A.C. Clark, who was charged in a battery case stemming from an alleged drunken beating meted out on a former colleague. The charges were later dropped.
At that time, agents also asked Crosby for a firewood rack, a leaf blower and a ladder. He complied. Soon Crosby asked Bush if he should resign. Bush said no.
'Don't let the `blanks' get you down,'' Bush told him then, informing the media Crosby was a ``good leader.''
But Crosby was still nervous, a friend said, because of the investigation and because of what he saw as Bush's track record of ''leaving people hanging,'' noting the swift rise and demise of child-care chief Jerry Regier. Regier was the head of the Department of Children & Families who resigned after questions arose about contracting and cronyism.
''I'm thinking about the Regier Syndrome. I don't want that to happen to me,'' Crosby told a friend in the fall.
In hiring McDonough to replace Crosby, Bush is relying on someone with little institutional knowledge but a history of surmounting daunting tasks. McDonough spent 30 years in the Army and retired as a colonel with a Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, including one for valor. He commanded the Southern European Task Force Infantry Brigade, which was sent to some of the toughest places on Earth: Zaire, Uganda, Bosnia and Rwanda, just after the genocide there.
McDonough then worked in President Bill Clinton's Office of National Drug Policy before joining Gov. Bush in 1999. He is one of the longest-serving top aides to Bush left in state government.
Crosby was tapped by Bush in January 2003, just as the governor began his second term in office. Bush decided to turn to Crosby, a longtime veteran of the Florida prison system after a tumultuous four years under Michael Moore, the former South Carolina prison chief whose style clashed with DOC employees and with state legislators.
Crosby, who was earning $124,799 a year, first went to work for the department in 1975 and slowly worked his way up the ladder, including time as warden of Florida State Prison in Starke, home of some of Florida's most notorious killers.
During his watch, inmate Frank Valdez was apparently killed in a violent prison-cell extraction by guards, who were later acquitted by a jury. Crosby was never implicated in the Valdez death.
Crosby was also politically active and helped put together campaign rallies for Bush. Crosby's friend, Clark, even got in trouble for commandeering department radios to work security at Bush's first inauguration.
During Crosby's time at the department, the prison system underwent a building boom as legislators were forced to spend millions for new prison beds due to an unexpected surge in the number of inmates.
But the prison system also came under the scrutiny of both state and federal authorities. The probe started with the steroid ring and allegations of employee theft of recycling materials. It soon mushroomed into the wide-ranging examination of the entire department.
Some longtime friends of Crosby said they knew little about the investigation and said they were surprised by his swift resignation.
''I've known Jim Crosby a long time,'' said state Sen. Rod Smith, an Alachua Democrat who is running for governor and was the state attorney who prosecuted the guards in the Valdez case. ``I'm surprised by this and hope that the investigation finds there hasn't been any wrongdoing. But if they do find something, he needs to be held accountable.''
Miami Herald researcher Tina Cummings contributed to this report.
(c) 2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources.
Bush fires state prison chief
Crosby named in DOC lawsuit
Originally published February 11, 2006
Gov. Jeb Bush ousted embattled state prison chief James Crosby on Friday but couldn't say why.
"I asked for the resignation of Secretary Crosby," Bush said. "There's an ongoing investigation. I can't speak of the details but today was the appropriate time that we were given the chance to take action."
The governor, who had staunchly supported Crosby through state and federal investigations of the prison system, said he was "saddened and really disappointed, but I had to do it."
As if to signal that he wants real reform, Bush appointed retired Army Col. Jim McDonough as interim secretary of the Department of Corrections rather than naming a DOC insider. McDonough, a decroated ex-paratrooper and West Point graduate who has headed the governor's drug-policy office since 1999, will serve until Bush finds someone to head the department for his last year in office.
State and federal police agencies, which have been checking out allegations ranging from illegal steroid use to rowdy barroom brawling, were as tight-lipped as Bush. But a lawyer for 10 prisoners who claim they were tortured said she suspects a link between a court ruling that strengthened her lawsuit and Crosby's forced resignation.
Cassandra Capobianco of Florida Institutional Legal Services in Gainesville said a federal judge on Wednesday permitted the inmates to amend their case against 28 DOC officials, including Crosby, Florida State Prison Warden Michael Rathmann and former regional director Allen Clark, who resigned in August. Capobianco said prisoners allege "systematic torture," including burning with chemical sprays.
"It's very interesting to us that he resigned right after we were allowed to amend our complaint and to add injunctive claims against Florida State Prison," she said. "We have alleged that Secretary Crosby has encouraged policies that were responsible for systematic torture."
Alia Faraj, Bush's communications director, declined to comment. She said she and Russell Schweiss, the governor's press secretary, not only couldn't say - but actually didn't know - why Crosby was ousted.
"I know nothing more than the statement we put out," she said. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on an ongoing law-enforcement investigation."
The FDLE and FBI also said they had nothing to release about Crosby's situation.
David Murrell, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association, said "the governor's office gave us a heads-up that it was coming" but did not tell the union representing correctional officers why Crosby had to go.
"We were told that there would be 'further developments,' and you can read anything you want into that," said Murrell.
He praised Crosby "as a very gregarious person, always concerned about the rank-and-file officers and always very approachable and responsive."
Parts of the vast department have been in turmoil, starting with an investigation into steroid abuse by some correctional officers in 2004. By late last year, eight officers had been charged with crimes ranging from steroid use to embezzlement; personal vehicles of two prison officials were seized when a former inmate gave investigators a record of work he said guards forced him to do for them, and a Panhandle prison library employee was charged with theft - involving a no-show job he was given, supposedly so he could play in departmental softball matches.
Crosby himself gave investigators a metal firewood rack, a leaf blower and a ladder from his Tallahassee home. He was not charged with any criminal offenses in the inquiry that popped into headlines repeatedly last year.
Two beer-soaked beatings in separate incidents involving off-duty correctional officers and some supervisors caused Crosby to form a special "critical incident review task force" late last year.
The task force decided "staff misconduct is not systemic" in the department but recommended training for supervisors to recognize "red flag" behavior that may indicate emotional or psychological problems. In forming the task force, Crosby declared a zero-tolerance for violence in the ranks.
Crosby, 53, grew up in the tightly-knit corrections community of Bradford County. After getting a journalism degree at the University of Florida, he started as an intake supervisor for the prison system in 1975 - working his way up to warden of the state's toughest prison.
He served a stint as mayor of Starke and volunteered in President Bush's 2000 campaign, serving as a delegate to the GOP convention.
The governor chose him to succeed Michael Moore, his first-term Corrections secretary, who had come to Florida after stints in Texas and South Carolina. Returning an insider to the department was very popular with the rank-and-file security officers, who loudly applauded Crosby at annual legislative lobbying days - and he reciprocated by helping with their pay and benefits during budget talks.
To read previous Democrat stories about problems within the Department of Corrections, including those mentioned in this story, go to www.Tallahassee.com.
Contact political editor Bill Cotterell at (850) 671-6545 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Chief of state prison system fired
Crosby subject of criminal probe
Originally published February 10, 2006
Without giving a reason, Gov. Jeb Bush today fired the head of Florida's prison system.
"Today, I asked for and received the resignation of James Crosby, secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections," Bush said in a brief statement issued by his office. "I am deeply saddened and disappointed at the need to take this action."
Alia Faraj, the governor's director of communications, confirmed that Crosby is the subject of a criminal investigation but declined further comment, citing the ongoing probe.
Bush appointed his top drug-policy adviser, retired Army Col. James McDonough, to serve as interim secretary.
The prison system has been the subject of state and federal investigations on a wide range of topics in recent months. The Panhandle regional director of the system, a Crosby protege, resigned abruptly last year.
Investigations have involved allegations of steroid use among guards, as well as misuse of prison property and inmate labor. The department was also embarrassed by a couple of violent off-duty incidents last year, with fights involving correctional officers in Tallahassee and near the state prison at Starke.
The department adopted a new code of conduct in response to those incidents.
See Saturday's Tallahassee Democrat for the full story.