Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has been dealt a new setback in his ongoing attempt to suppress criticism of his administration’s handling of COVID-19 in the state, where over 36,000 have died of the virus. The inspector general’s office at the Florida state Department of Health has now formally concluded that Rebekah Jones, an ex-department staff member, has legal whistleblower status in connection to revelations that she has made about alleged attempts to manipulate the public presentation of pandemic-tied data in Florida. Concurrent with that status, the inspector general’s office says that they’ll be investigating Jones’s concerns, which doesn’t exactly reflect great on DeSantis.
Jones alleges that the presentation of data connected to the virus outbreak in Florida was manipulated to more positively reflect on the DeSantis administration’s approach to the virus. Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis has resisted demands to take the crisis more seriously, often shifting responsibility to local authorities – before recently issuing an order nullifying any remaining COVID-19 restrictions from any local governments anywhere in the state. (Businesses can still implement their own restrictions.)
Now, the inspector general’s office at the Florida state Department of Health says not only that Jones has whistleblower status but that they’ll be investigating a complaint that she has filed accordingly. Noting that they received a forwarded copy of a complaint from Jones in February alleging “mishandling, misrepresenting, and falsifying COVID-19 surveillance data” by a few particular health officials, the Health Department inspector general said as follows, addressing Jones directly:
’After review of your concerns, this office determined that your complaint does demonstrate reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state, or local law, rule or regulation, thereby creating and presenting a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.’
The inspector general’s office also said that they found reason to suspect that a state employee or the like may have “committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty.” Thus, the office said that they’re designating Jones’s complaint as a “whistle-blower complaint and will conduct an investigation.” Although DeSantis doesn’t appear to be a central subject of the investigation that the office says they’re launching, it seems easy for the issues at hand to tie directly back to the controversial Trump-allied governor.
Read the full letter from the Health Department inspector general’s office by clicking on the post below:
Florida Department of Health OIG finds reasonable cause to suspect employees under Gov. Ron DeSantis created a "substantial and specific danger to the public's health" by misrepresenting and falsifying #COVID19 surveillance data, giving @GeoRebekah whistleblower status. pic.twitter.com/ANQuJKixvQ
— Grant Stern is fully vaccinated (@grantstern) June 2, 2021