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Deputy Medicaid director resigns

He is the second to resign amid the controversy over lobbyists and their influence on public officials.

By DIANE RADO

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- A second high-ranking official has resigned in the midst of controversy over the influence of lobbyists and contract awards at the state's Agency for Health Care Administration.

Gary Crayton, deputy director for Medicaid, will leave the agency on Sept. 1 to return to private business, said AHCA spokesman Bruce Congleton.

Crayton's decision relates to his family and his finances -- not to the controversy over a $24-million contract that was thrown out by ACHA this spring, Congleton said. "This is one of the finest men you ever want to have in your agency," Congleton said.

Crayton did not return a reporter's phone call Tuesday. He earns $97,660 a year in his role over Medicaid programs, and is in charge of the staff who worked on a $24-million contract to handle reviews of the way hospitals and other facilities spend federal Medicaid dollars.

That contract ran into trouble earlier this year when Sarah Grim, a Missouri health care executive, went to the FBI with allegations that two lobbyists told her they could "guarantee" she'd get the award if she paid them $1.2-million.

One of the lobbyists, Sports Illustrated writer and book author Donald Yaeger, constantly reminded her of his connections at the agency, Grim said.

The St. Petersburg Times has reported that Yaeger went to lunch and football games with AHCA bureau chief Jim Clark, who is under Crayton's supervision. Clark made decisions in Yaeger's favor on the contract, and a company represented by Yaeger ultimately got the award.

Agency Secretary Ruben J. King-Shaw Jr. threw out the contract after taking sworn testimony from Clark, Yaeger, Grim and other officials. Crayton was not among those interviewed, Congleton said.

Crayton's resignation follows the departure of AHCA official Douglas Russell. He and his wife enjoyed a vacation in Jamaica last October with Yaeger and his wife. In December, Russell approved a $936,579 no-bid contract for EMC2, a computer company that Yaeger represents as a lobbyist and his wife works for as a sales representative. Russell was transferred from his job overseeing purchasing in February, and submitted his resignation last month. The agency said those moves were not disciplinary in nature. EMC2 also got no-bid contracts worth $3.3-million from two other state agencies in December.

Yaeger has dropped all his lobbying clients in the aftermath of the controversy. Two other EMC2 lobbyists left the company this month as well -- David Rancourt, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush, and Paul Bradshaw, husband to Bush chief of staff Sally Bradshaw.

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