Contractors strike it rich on juvie prison in FLORIDA

The Miami Herald Wednesday, July 2, 1997

Investors of juvenile `academy' clean up

TALLAHASSEE -- (AP) -- Three years after lawmakers decided to create a juvenile ``academy,'' no teenage criminals have been reformed -- but a handful of investors have gotten rich off the project, a new report said.

Plans to create a 500-bed academy were hatched in 1994 when the Legislature's top priority was fighting teen crime.

The Adam Paine Academy, in Sun City near Tampa, isn't finished yet. But the fiscal management of the company that got the contract to build and run the reform school is criticized in a report issued Monday by Harold Lewis, chief general inspector for Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Company officers have been repaid their original investments many times over in income, dividends and consulting fees, according to the report.

An original investment of just $7,100 has yielded more than $1 million in consulting fees.

What happened with the academy project isn't illegal but a case of bad management aggravated by lax oversight, Lewis said.

There's another problem. If the academy isn't finished, the company building it can sue the state to get paid. But if it's finished, it could still stand idle because the Legislature hasn't put up operating money to run it.

``The state is placed in a quandary, and there is no easy answer,'' Lewis wrote.

Florida, meanwhile, continues to pay $180 a day for each of about 100 juvenile offenders it sends to the Pennsylvania school that inspired state lawmakers to create a similar school in Florida.

In 1994, the Legislature decided to copy the Glen Mills School in Concordville, Pa. At Glen Mills, teenage boys with juvenile records are educated, and their behavior is changed through peer pressure.

Florida lawmakers created the Alternative Education Institute and authorized $30 million for the institute to build a 500-bed facility based on Glen Mills.

The money comes from the utility tax used to pay for school construction around the state.

Education Commissioner Frank Brogan, whose department already has paid $9.5 million toward the facility, has stopped further payments to the institute and asked Chiles to investigate the project.

When the institute asked for bids on construction and operation of the facility, only one bid was received: from Griff Mills Schools Inc.

Seven stockholders -- five of them children of the director of Glen Mills -- put up $7,100 to form Griff Mills in January 1995.

Although Griff Mills is corporately separate from Glen Mills, its teaching philosophy is the same.

Griff Mills hasn't done any teaching yet, but it has made some money. Stockholders divided nearly $128,000 in income the first year and $173,000 last year for a profit of $18,000 and almost $25,000 respectively.

Two of the original investors have been paid nearly $234,000 each in consulting fees.

``The reported information casts Griff Mills in a poor light and is seen by some as evidence of greed and avarice,'' Lewis wrote.

Adam Shapiro, Griff Mills' CEO, said Tuesday from State College, Pa., that he hadn't seen Lewis' report and couldn't comment.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

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