Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Monday he will sign off on a $5,000 payment to cover funeral expenses for Eric Perez, an 18-year-old who died in state custody in West Palm Beach on July 10.
The Palm Beach Post and The Miami Herald reported this weekend that Atwater blocked the payment. His office told Department of Juvenile Justice officials they lacked statutory authority for the payment although the agency has had a policy for two years to pay up to $5,000 for funeral costs of children who die while in their custody and has issued the payments twice before.
On Monday, Atwater blamed Department of Juvenile Justice officials for what he called “a tragic delay” in a press release Monday afternoon. Atwater promised to send a check to the Perez family’s attorney within 48 hours.
“Regrettably, this tragic delay would not have occurred if the Department of Juvenile Justice had not blatantly ignored guidance from my office,” Atwater said in the release. “In the future, I would hope that DJJ would be more transparent in its dealings with the public and with taxpayer monies.”