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All but two counties get ‘exemplary’ score in Scott grading of emergency managers

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has finalized the grading of county emergency managers even after the association representing the local officials asked Scott to terminate the project.

The good news is that 65 of the state’s 67 counties earned an “exemplary” score, according to Palm Beach County Emergency Manager Bill Johnson. Two counties – Walton and Bradford – received a “meets standards” grade.

The results are not yet available to the public, but Palm Beach County officials learned about the grades yesterday in a telephone call from a regional emergency management official.

That nearly every county in the state scored the same raised eyebrows among some local officials, who questioned the project from its inception earlier this year.

“If all 65 counties were ranked exemplary, I don’t know what the purpose was. That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator Vince Bonvento. “I just don’t know what the impact of that score.”

The state Division of Emergency Management launched the “county typing” project earlier this year over the objections of the county managers. Many of the local emergency manager officials were concerned about the timing of the exercise, coming in the midst of hurricane season, and slated to be released two weeks before the Aug. 14 primary election.

One disgruntled emergency manager, who received a perfect score, called the project “a completely flawed system” and “a waste of time.”

The association representing the emergency officials asked Scott’s administration to terminate the project, but DEM director Brian Koon refused to back down. Koon said in June he intended to either rank the counties or assign letter grades or “smiley or frowney” faces.

A 22-question surveywas sent to county officials on July 20. The questionnaire was a pared-down version of a 106-question sampler that drew the wrath of the emergency officials earlier this summer.

The measurement-centric Scott dropped a ranking of the state’s supervisors of elections earlier this year. That controversial survey included extra credit for supervisors who turned the forms in early. In July, The Tampa Bay Times reported that Scott’s administration had ranked the state’s 67 county health departments.

Koon said in June that he intended to give each of the 67 counties a grade on their performance and that the exercise was an effort to pinpoint weaknesses in emergency management and response and to highlight best practices in some counties that other agencies could adopt.

But the final survey did nothing of to help strengthen disaster response, said Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris, who received a perfect score on the survey and an accompanying capability analysis, required by law to be performed every five years.

He called the grades a waste of time.

“The questions are fine for a basic program. But the understanding was that we were going to get something out of this that was going to be best practices that we could strengthen our programs,” Harris said. “There’s no question in here that even comes close to doing anything like that.”


Scott rips from headlines: Fla nukes safe

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott says he doesn’t read the papers. But the Republican chief executive said Monday that he took action last weekend ripped from the headlines about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Scott said he ordered state emergency management officials to review safety procedures involving Florida’s five nuclear reactors housed at three power plants, including Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point facility and another on St. Lucie County’s Hutchinson Island.

Scott and officials said Monday that they are satisfied that Florida could respond swiftly and safely to any natural disaster.

“The information I’ve received shows that across state agencies, in conjunction with federal partners and utility operators, we are prepared for an effective and rapid emergency response,” Scott said.

Aronberg questions Florida’s disaster readiness

Monday, January 11th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Sen. Dave Aronberg is questioning the state’s emergency readiness given the recent ouster of emergency management chief Ruben Almaguer.

Senate Military Affairs and Domestic Security Committee Chairman Aronberg, D-Greenacres, sent Almaguer’s replacement David Halstead a bevy of questions this morning about Florida’s ability to respond to a terrorist threat like the recently thwarted Christmas Day bomber airplane attack in Michigan.

Gov. Charlie Crist forced Almaguer to resign from his position as interim director of the Division of Emergency Management last week amid accusations of nepotism, misspending and sexism.

Almaguer, brought in as deputy chief to former DEM head Craig Fugate by Gov. Jeb Bush, last Monday refused to step down then resigned after meeting with Crist’s chief of staff Shane Strum and deputy chief Kathy Mears.

Almaguer says he was forced out by his replacement, Halstead, and that he has a “clean conscience.”

Crist refused to look into Almaguer’s alleged wrongdoing despite a plea from the ousted department official for an investigation.

Among the questions Aronberg wants answered:

Who’s responsible for audits of the division, which is located under the Department of Community Affairs?

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