After 37 days of waiting, it’s payday for St. Pete Grand Prix cleanup crew

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Grand Prix 14 has finally been paid.

“I’m smiling today,” said Rickie Ellis

Ellis and the other workers, who waited 37 days for a paycheck, are now are $7,000 richer, thanks to some prodding by 8 On Your Side and a call from the Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Rick Kriseman contacted Grand Prix organizers this week to make things right after we started raising questions.

“We didn’t think it was going to get this far, but 8 was on Your Side got to the bottom of it, put us on top, and got us paid,” Ellis said.

The fracas began last month when Grand Prix vendor Clean MD, operated by Dottie Flynn, recruited 14 low-income, and in some cases, homeless, people to clean up city streets during and after the Grand Prix races on March 10-12.

Flynn paid the crew for some initial work, but could not come up with the rest of the cash she promised to pay them by April 5.

“She had us scared for a while,” Ellis said.

Flynn blamed the city and the Grand Prix, because race organizers hadn’t yet paid her company.

On Tuesday, Flynn blamed 8 On Your Side for somehow holding up her vendor payment from race organizers due to bad publicity.

She insisted we were responsible for her threatened eviction from a golf and country club community in Lakeland, where she lives and runs Clean MD.

“She was blaming you guys on her getting evicted and things of that nature,” Ellis said

Community managers where Flynn lives and runs her business said 8 On Your Side has nothing to do with her eviction.

Flynn threatened to call police when we showed up at her company address with questions about the workers’ unpaid wages.

Those workers told us last week she had previously threatened them with legal action for the same reason, even though all they wanted was a paycheck for services rendered after weeks of trash removal following the race. By all accounts, they did an excellent job.

After an 8 On Your Side investigation into the issue, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman privately lobbied race organizers to expedite a vendor payment to Flynn so she could pay the workers.

Flynn paid the workers in cash Tuesday night during a rendezvous at St. Pete Police Headquarters (for security purposes), after driving from Lakeland to deliver the cash in her purple Dodge Charger.

“She came and she apologized, so it’s all good,” Ellis said.

Ellis rounded up the crew for weeks of street cleaning after the race, and was the one who distributed the cash payments to the crew. He told 8 On Your Side he’s spending Wednesday paying overdue bills and buying food that he couldn’t afford to purchase until today.

Ellis also picked up a belated birthday gift for his nephew, who he says was elated.

Grand Prix managers stopped returning our calls and emails last week, but one staff member in the office Wednesday said he’s glad the vendor’s payroll mess has been resolved.

“It’s very good news,” said Stephen Timms. “We’re happy that we could get it resolved, it’s very good news for sure.”

Timms said it’s not clear whether the Grand Prix will hire Dottie Flynn’s company, Clean MD, for next year’s race, given all that’s happened.

“It’s to be determined. I can’t really comment on that right now. There’s definitely a lot to talk about,” Timms said.

Flynn sent us a text indicating she’s not very optimistic. “They will never give me another opp,” Flynn wrote. “I was always trying to do the right thing.”

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