Dept. of Children and Families employee defends herself

Shani Smith defends herself after being fired

MIAMI - Fired Department of Children and Families employee Shani Smith defended herself on Tuesday following the death of an infant earlier this month.

"I'm not a criminal. I'm not a monster. I would never overlook a child in a potentially dangerous situation. Never," Smith said.

Smith was first assigned to work with Catalina Bruno's family last year after a domestic violence incident, and again in November when police said Bruno was found drunk, asleep at the wheel, with her infant "head down between the front seats," according to records.

That time, DCF alleged Smith let Bruno slip through the cracks and failed to document referring her to an alcohol intervention program.

Six months later, investigators said Bruno left her baby inside the parked car outside her Southwest Miami-Dade home where he was found dead.

Smith was fired.

"I've been with DCF since I came out of college. I'm disappointed. I've been there for years. There would be no reason for me to lie. There would be no reason for me to falsify records," she said.

Smith said she faxed Spectrum, the company that DCF contracts with for alcohol intervention, recommending Bruno receive treatment. She also said she received an email receipt.

Spectrum told Local 10 on the phone the company has no record of that.

Last week DCF Secretary David Wilkins said the agency doesn't have a record, either.

"Our computer systems don't show that any of these services were ever ordered electronically or received," Wilkins said.

Smith said she does not know why records of her work aren't showing up.

"I'm telling you that there's a file," said Smith. "In the file it will show you that my referral that I faxed over, the report that I receive, everything is in the file. Give me the file back and I'll show you what I did. I can make a mistake. I'm human. If I forgot, I would have just said I forgot. I didn't forget."

Smith said after she was fired she was stripped access to her paper and electronic files.

Evaluations in Smith's 423-page personnel file are all satisfactory or better.

There are notes she had "good leadership skills" and "tremendous growth" in her duties.

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