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Big Bend CBC Among State Partner Entities Flagged For Excessive Compensation

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An audit of firms contracted with the state has found several executives getting excessive amounts of compensation. Most of those violating are contracted with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Among them: Big Bend Community Based Care.

Big Bend Community Based Care is the entity that handles child placement and welfare for 18 counties in the region. The state audit found CEO Mike Watkins is paid nearly $578,000 for his work, more than $370,000 over state and federal limits.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' office released the audit findings earlier this week but didn't include names or specific agencies. House Ethics Chairwoman Erin Grall revealed them in a meeting Wednesday. She warns there are likely more state contracted, nonprofit agencies running afoul of state and federal compensation limits.

“Consider these findings preliminary, because some entities may be hiding secret compensation as we discovered with the Florida Coalition for Domestic Violence," Grall told committee members.

The state’s probe began last year after investigations found the leader of that agency paid herself more than $7.5 million over three years. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the state to examine private partners that get more than 50% of their funding from the state.

This isn’t the first time Watkins’ salary has been called out. It was previously cited in a January 2019 state audit. The findings are coming amid an ongoing effort by the Department of Children and Families to get greater oversight of its partner agencies.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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