Orange County Corrections head ousted in wake of home confinement controversy
Updated On: Apr 11 2013 06:11:05 PM EDT
The head of Orange County Corrections has stepped down in the wake of a home confinement controversy.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs announced the resignations of Michael Tidwell, along with Deputy Director of Corrections Jill Hobbs at a meeting discussing the troubled home confinement and GPS monitoring of domestic violence suspects programs on Thursday afternoon.
Tidwell will remain on the job while a search for a replacement is conducted.
Orange County Corrections officials released a statement shortly after Jacobs' announcement saying that Tidwell was retiring, not resigning and it was unrelated to the home confinement program controversy.
A spokesperson for Jacobs said Tidwell was asked to resign by the mayor as a result of the controversy around the program, but offered his retirement instead.
[READ: Tidwell's letter]
An investigation into the Orange County Home Confinement program was recently launched after investigators say Bessman Okafor shot and killed witness Alex Zaldivar, who was slated to testify against him at trial.
In the midst of Jacobs' announcement, Zaldivar's father arrived and Jacobs burst into tears.
"Although Bessman Okafor has been charged with the murder of Alex Zaldivar I can't change the past, or lessen the suffering and loss," Jacobs said. "Nor can I promise that criminals won't do criminal acts. I can promise I will do everything in my power to ensure that our Community Corrections programs perform as designed and that our staff is held to the highest standards of performance and accountability."
Zaldivar's father spoke to Local 6 after the announcement of the overhaul of the program.
"It stunning...I always figured something wasn't correct and we lost Alex because of this and its a tragedy, its disgusting, its disgusting," said Rafael Zaldivar.
He also spoke to Jacobs' privately after the announcement and she gave him a copy of the report with its findings.
Zaldivar's death sparked a federal and internal investigation into Orange County jail and the Easter shooting in Apopka by a man on GPS monitoring by a private company resulted in Judge Belvin Perry suspending GPS tracker use in new criminal cases last week.
When the program was suspended in February, there were 220 defendants enrolled; there are now 20, Jacobs said.
Jacobs released the results of the investigations by the Corrections Internal Affairs and the County's Office of Professional Standards. The investigation uncovered that employees continued to drop the ball when it came to addressing curfew violations and alerts.
One example detailed in the report was when a staff member called Okafor's sister to confirm Okafor was home and the officer accepted the excuse that they were having phone problems at the house.
The report states it's not clear if what happened to Zaldivar would have been prevented for sure, but Rafael Zaldivar says he believes his son could have been saved had Okafor been closely tracked.
"When I think about my son, he could have been saved a thousand times and because of them he's dead," Rafael Zaldivar said. "He wanted to do the right thing he wanted to protect others, now hes dead."
Watch Local 6 News for a full report.