Littlefield had been questioned about his oversight at Tampa group home


TALLAHASSEE -The new director of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) abruptly resigned late Monday, amid questions about his oversight of a controversial Tampa area group home that allowed sex between residents.

Carl Littlefield, a former lawmaker who was appointed to the post Feb. 4, sent a brief letter to Gov. Rick Scott that gave no explanation for stepping down. He said he was “greatly honored and humbled” to be chosen to work in Scott’s administration.

“However, after careful consideration, I request to withdraw as a nominee to serve as the director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and will step down from this position effective immediately,’’ Littlefield wrote in the letter, which was released to the public Tuesday morning.

Report tells of abuse at center

The online news organization Florida Tribune had reported earlier that Littlefield could face difficulty getting confirmed by the Senate because of the controversy about a Hillsborough County group home called the Human Development Center.

Before getting appointed as APD director, Littlefield was an agency administrator in the Tampa Bay area.

The St. Petersburg Times has reported extensively about male residents of the home being allowed to have sex in their rooms. The practice allegedly led to abuse of some residents who couldn’t protect themselves.

Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican who is chairwoman of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, has been particularly critical of the group home’s operations and APD’s oversight of it. Storms likely would have been an influential player in determining whether Littlefield would get confirmed.

Littlefield was scheduled to appear before Storms’ committee Tuesday morning.

Years of financial troubles for agency

Agency heads can start serving before they get confirmed. It is rare for senators to reject gubernatorial appointments.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities serves people who have developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. Scott named Littlefield to replace Jim DeBeaugrine, a former legislative staffer who appeared to have the respect of many lawmakers.

APD has faced years of financial troubles, regularly running deficits and leading lawmakers to try to limit services. Scott’s 2011-12 budget proposal, for example, called for cutting rates up to 8.4 percent for many APD contractors and called for privatizing state facilities run by the agency.

Scott also said Tuesday he has ordered an inspector general s audit of APD’s finances because of the deficits, but said little about Littlefield’s resignation.

“We have budgets, and we’re going to have agencies that live within their budgets,’’ Scott said.