Florida's top LTC ombudsman placed under 'virtual house arrest,' state investigates possible wrongdoing

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The leader of Florida's long-term care ombudsman program is under investigation and has been placed on administrative leave under strict conditions, according to local reports.

Harold J. "Jim" Crochet has run Florida's LTC ombudsman program since 2011. Last Friday, he was placed on paid leave by Elder Affairs Secretary Charles T. Corley, according to a memorandum obtained by the Miami Herald.

The inspector general of the Elder Affairs office has opened an investigation into Crochet, but the office will not disclose the potential allegations, the Herald reported. However, the terms of Crochet's leave suggest a serious matter. He has been instructed to remain at his home during working hours and to cease all communication with paid staff or volunteers in the ombudsman program.

Throughout his tenure, Crochet's critics have argued that his ties with long-term care providers compromise his ability to police the sector. Former volunteers claimed that his policies limited their access to facilities and undermined their effectiveness as watchdogs.

It's been a rough few years for the ombudsman's office. Crochet's predecessor, Brian Lee, is engaged in an ongoing legal battle with the state over the circumstances of his departure. Providers had criticized him for being overzealous and unduly critical, and balked at a request for detailed facility ownership information that he submitted shortly before resigning.

Lee said the ownership request was authorized under the Affordable Care Act, and claims his forced resignation amounted to unlawful interference from the office of Gov. Rick Scott (R).

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