TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida agency under scrutiny since a recent murder-suicide killed a family of eight defended one of its managers on Friday, noting that he was cleared of accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior shortly before the deaths.
David Abramowitz, regional managing director for the Florida Department of Children and Families in the state’s northeast, faced his own investigation before six children under his jurisdiction were shot dead by their grandfather, who also killed their mother and himself.
He was accused of calling female staffers wearing high heels “hoochie mamas” and other slurs, according to a report released two weeks before the killings.
The inquiry highlighted concerns about the office, which had an open investigation about drug use in the Bell, Florida, household when Don Spirit, a 51-year-old man with a history of convictions for drug, weapons and battery charges, last month killed his daughter and six grandchildren, ages 11 years to 3 months.
At an agency long troubled by reports of inadequate protection for children, Abramowitz’s behavior did not create a hostile workplace environment, the report found, but investigators recommended that he receive “appropriate training.”
“I say things sometimes that if I thought about it, I probably would not say,” Abramowitz told state investigators.
“I have to relook at myself and have to redirect how I am going about engaging people because I am obviously going about it wrong,” he added, noting that he never intended to upset anyone.
Abramowitz could not be reached through the agency’s media office on Friday, which noted his comments were in the report.
“The findings in the (inspector general) report did not support the allegations,” that Abramowitz had created a hostile workplace, agency spokeswoman Alexis Lambert said in an email on Friday.
The report drew attention after the agency earlier this week announced changes to improve accountability, including retraining the staff involved in the deadly case.
In the report, more than a dozen people were interviewed about accusations that Abramowitz behaved unprofessionally.
He offended a male investigator by calling him “Biggie Smalls,” referring to a rap artist, the report noted. He remarked about the hairstyles of African-American females, referring to one as a bird’s nest.
After 30 years in the military, Abramowitz acknowledged the agency was a change, but said he never intended to offend.
“If I make fun of you,” he said, “it is because I like you.”