TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The chief of Florida's troubled child-protection agency resigned Monday amid an outcry over allegations he and two of his top aides took favors from contractors.
Jerry Regier (search), secretary of the Department of Children & Families, said the furor contributed to a perception that the agency is in disarray, and that, in turn, made it too difficult for him to do his job.
"Perception sometimes takes front and center," said Regier, who did not specify a departure date.
Regier, 59, took office in September 2002 after the disappearance of 5-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson (search) exposed widespread disarray in the department. Rilya was missing for 15 months before officials even realized it. She has yet to be found.
An audit by Gov. Jeb Bush's (search) inspector general last month concluded that two of Regier's top aides were taking favors from contractors. The aides resigned.
At the time, Regier apologized for his own actions that appeared improper, including staying at the home of a contractor doing business with his agency.
The inspector general's report said the agency needs an independent auditing process for contracts, particularly computer projects. It also recommended better documenting of reimbursement for social events and meals.
The governor said Monday that the agency is in better shape today than it was when Regier was hired.
"We have seen improvement in the fundamental aspects of how the department is managed," Bush said. "I know it's been a grueling, grueling exercise."
Regier was involved in controversy nearly from his first day in Florida, when it was discovered he had been involved with a Christian group that promotes spanking and, critics say, demeans women.
And last year he angered the governor when he agreed to serve as chairman of an Oklahoma friend's political. He quickly rescinded that decision.
Regier served as the Oklahoma secretary for social services for five years. He also worked in Washington in social service posts for both President Reagan and the first President Bush, the governor's father.