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Long-time Public Health Officer Ousted

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Dr. Homer Rice, who worked for the Florida Department of Health for 36 years and spent the last eight as chief of the Leon County unit, was forced out of his job, the Tallahassee Democratreported on Thursday.

The state agency said in a press release last week that Rice, 58, had decided to retire -- even though he had said in writing that he planned to retire in 2016. The Democrat said that Rice's personnel file makes clear he did not leave on his own accord, but was ousted by top officials at DOH. He signed a settlement agreeing to retire rather than face disciplinary action.

It is not clear why Rice was shown the door, but he had received glowing performance reviews and risen through the ranks for decades, until last year. Under Surgeon General John Armstrong there has been considerable turnover among health-department directors.

Rice would not comment on the situation but those who know him told The Democrat they suspect he was considered too outspoken for the administration of Gov. Rick Scott. Earlier this month, Rice had said at a Healthy Start Coalition meeting that Leon County and Florida have too high a rate of uninsured and problems with access to health care. He said black infant death rates were higher than they should be because of poverty and racism.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.