Revisited: Part 2: Investigation into Florida’s failed unemployment system

Part 2: Investigation into Florida’s failed unemployment system

Bottom Line: In the first part of this story I walked through the failed background of the Connect system and how it came to be.Now it’s time to tie details together...This first piece of the puzzle is important. News media is quick to point to the Scott administration for the failures of Connect, and make no mistake, there’s room for blame but the origins of this failure were signed into law by Charlie Crist with the chosen vendor in hand prior to Rick ever overseeing the failed launch. Here’s the next important piece of the puzzle. The lobbyist behind Deloitte Consulting. Brian Ballard of Ballard Partners, is one of the heaviest hitting lobbyists around. He’s lobbied on behalf of companies like Amazon recently but over a decade ago it was Deloitte and Republican politics within Florida.Representing Deloitte and being well connected to the Crist administration – recall he was a Republican in those days – seemed to get his client the deal without even proof of what proved to be a failed concept years later at its launch. But before that launch he saw opportunity with the incoming governor Rick Scott and Chaired his inaugural finance committee. So, he won his client the contract with one governor, took on an active role with the next which naturally kept the ball rolling for his client. One which took on tens of millions of cost over runs and of course failed out of the box. By the time the genie was out of the bottle he’d conveniently moved on to other projects. But he’s not the only link to potentially to important questions which require answers. There’s another key player. Shane Strum.

Shane Strum was the Chief-of-Staff of Governor Charlie Crist who advanced the recommendation of Deloitte Consulting within the Crist administration. What is Strum doing today? He’s Ron DeSantis’s chief-of-staff. No kidding. It doesn’t mean Shane’s done anything knowingly wrong...other than buying into slick lobbying and recommending a company which failed the state...but Ballard and Strum might have had something to do with why years' worth of audit reports went ignored. So,about that...

Auditors raised concerns with Florida’s Connect system in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019. Four years under the Scott administration and one year under the DeSantis administration. The warnings issued suggested the system would fail under high demand as we’ve seen. Yet no one acted meaningfully on those audit findings. Why? This is something we don’t know. But if a chief-of-staff recommended the service in use and unemployment is low so problems that pop up can be swept under the rug...Perhaps that’s what happened here?There’s smoke all over the place. There’s bound to be a fire. This is why the investigation is needed. And sadly, this story is the premise of why you might not be receiving your benefits during a time of need. 

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