Two days after Florida legislators asked probing questions of the top inspector at the Department of Corrections, the agency banned inspectors from discussing any investigations, releasing any public records relating to agency probes, or even voluntarily bringing information to outsiders, including legislators, the Miami Herald reports. The virtual gag order requires all employees of the Office of Inspector General to sign a confidentiality agreement and three other documents pledging they will not use the department database for unauthorized use, will not release information on open or closed cases to anyone, and will not compromise their independence while they are working in the department.
Any violation could result in “immediate termination.” The Office of Inspector General is charged with investigating criminal wrongdoing or policy violations in the state's prison system. Spokesman McKinley Lewis said the change was made yesterday by new Corrections Secretary Julie Jones because she wanted to impose a standard used by most law enforcement agencies. He described the documents as “basic, normal forms that tell people to follow the law” and said it is part of Jones' effort to “fix many things in the department.” The timing of the gag order raised questions and drew immediate criticism from state legislators.