Former Florida Senate President Joe Negron was hired by GEO Group, a former campaign donor, for a $400,000 salary in November. The former Republican lawmaker now serves as a the private prison provider’s general counsel.
Joe Negron leaves Florida Senate for GEO Group
As reported by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon earlier today, former Florida Senate President Joe Negron is being paid a $400,000 salary by the private prison giant, GEO Group.
GEO Group’s decision to hire Negron became public knowledge in December, but the exact salary only became part of the public record thanks to a recent SEC filing.
Negron unexpectedly decided to step down from the Florida Senate last May, halfway into his four year term.
Senators are normally limited to two terms of four years each, but Negron had been in office for over nine years. He had been allowed to run again in 2016 thanks to a quirk of redistricting.
When announcing his decision to step down in May 2018, he said it was to honor the spirit of term limits. “I believe in a citizen Legislature where women and men from all walks of life serve for a reasonable period of time and then return to the private sector,” he said.
True to his word, Negron returned to the private sector officially on December 5th, beginning a two year contract with GEO Group just weeks after his departure from the Florida Senate became official.
No stranger to GEO Group
The former Senator’s employment by the private prison provider is part of a longstanding relationship.
Negron and committees he controled accepted over $300,000 in contributions from GEO Group during his time in office (including $250,000 given to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2016, and $50,000 given to Negron’s own campaign fund over several years from 2013). The unsuccessful US House campaign of Rebecca Negron, Joe Negron’s wife, received $100,000 from the prison giant.
During the same period, GEO Group benefited from millions of dollars of increased funding from the State of Florida.
For the current budget, Florida’s 7 privately owned prisons (of which GEO Group owns five) received an extra $4 million. Negron, who was in office when the budget was passed, said the increase was necessary to help private prison owners compensate their workers with competitive salaries.
“We gave a substantial pay increase to employees who work in our prisons,” he said. “The problem is, it created a wage disparity with the employees of our private prisons that are partners of us as well.”
The Florida state legislature also appropriated $2.9 million for GEO Group’s offender rehabilitation program, Continuum of Care.
Speaking to POLITICO in December, State Representative David Richardson (Democrat – Miami Beach), was highly critical of the interplay between Negron and the prison provider.
“As Senate president, Mr. Negron made sure to take care of his friends at GEO, just as they took care to support his wife’s congressional run, related political committees and other initiatives,” he said.
“It does not surprise me that the GEO leaders have now offered him a big job inside their private prison industrial complex.”
No explanation from Joe Negron
Despite the continuing controversy about his employment since leaving the Florida Senate, Negron has remained publicly silent on the issue.
His official twitter account, @joenegronfl, has been inactive since he left office in November.
Neither Negron nor GEO Group have responded to requests for comment from the media.
When the hiring of Negron by GEO Group first became public in December, Executive Vice President Pablo Perez issued statements to several media outlets. Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, he cited Negron’s “30 years of experience in business law and complex corporate and commercial litigation” as justification for the hiring.
While much higher than that of the average Floridian, Negron’s $400,000 salary could arguably be seen as a cost-cutting exercise for GEO Group. The annual salary of his predecessor as general counsel, John Bulfin, was over a hundred thousand dollars more.