The Department of Children and Families’ top in-house lawyer fired off a memo to the agency’s regional managing directors late last month, concerned about “ethical issues raised by conversations with former employees.”
Without naming names or mentioning specific instances, DCF General Counsel Javier Enriquez sent a reminder July 24 about “ethical behavior,” especially when it comes to interacting with “our … former colleagues.”
“Having shared history, values and understanding is invaluable in getting our work done,” Enriquez wrote in a memo. “But this familiarity in understanding and values must be managed consistently with our ethical duties and obligations.”
Earlier this month, but after the memo was dated, the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a discipline case against four circuit judges in Miami-Dade County and another judge who is now retired related to a DCF contract.
Last year, they sent a letter urging support for Our Kids of Miami-Dade & Monroe to get a $500 million child-welfare contract in South Florida. The JQC called that advocacy inappropriate for judges.
A DCF employee “must be cognizant of their ethical responsibilities while engaging in conversations with former colleagues, even in the bonds of friendship and comradeship,” Enriquez wrote.
“In addition to the limitations on receipt of gifts and benefits with which we are all familiar, in conversations with former colleagues we must be sensitive to the following,” he added, quoting from the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees.
Among those bullet points: “Employees may not disclose or use information not available to the public and gained by reason of their official position, except for information relating exclusively to government practices, for their or anyone else’s personal gain or benefit.”
Enriquez also pointed out that violating ethics rules could result in “reduction in pay, forfeiture of pay, dismissal, suspension, demotion, as well as civil penalties.”
“In sum,” he wrote, “the bonds of shared history and mutual respect cannot change the need for an arm’s length relationship with former colleagues about Department business.”
The memo was sent to the following regional managing directors:
— Courtney Stanford, North West Region.
— Eddie Encarnacion, North East Region.
— Sharron Washington, Central Region.
— Walter Sachs, SunCoast Region.
— Dennis Miles, South East Region.
— Robert Anderson, Southern Region.
Enriquez, a Republican, was named general counsel under DCF Secretary Chad Poppell after failing in his challenge last year to Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez for the seat in House District 114. Enriquez lost to Fernandez 53 percent-47 percent.