Pinellas, Hillsborough job agencies targeted by as many as 3 investigations over allegations of false jobs claims

8 On Your Side: You Paid For It with Mark Douglas
8 On Your Side: You Paid For It with Mark Douglas

(WFLA) – House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Congressman Charlie Crist added their voices to a growing chorus of calls for an investigation of two tax-funded job agencies in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Friday, the Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity Inspector General’s office launched an investigation of how CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay report job placements and manage $32 million a year in job training and placement tax dollars.

They’re looking into allegations that those job agencies claim credit for hundreds of jobs with local employers they had nothing to do with placing.

One of those employers is Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who says CareerSource Pinellas falsely took credit for placing more than 600 employees with his agency. Gualtieri called it a “scam” and severed his relationship with the job agency.

Now, state and federal lawmakers also want to look into that same question.

“This is a lot of money being paid for by taxpayers to run these boards and it looks like at least in the case of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, they were gaming the system,” said St. Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Republican from Palm Harbor.

Sprowls has asked House Speaker Richard Corcoran to initiate an investigation by the House Public Ethics and Integrity committee. Wednesday, Corcoran told 8 On Your Side he’s doing just that.

“We’ll get all that information and if they don’t want to give us that information, I’ve also authorized our public integrity chairman to use our subpoena power as we have with other agencies with questionable behavior, and we’ll get those documents and we’ll look at it,” Corcoran said.

Concerns now reach all the way to Washington D.C., where St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist is calling for a federal investigation of how job agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas spend millions of federal tax dollars and whether inflated success numbers have inflated the paycheck for the CEO of both agencies, Ed Peachey.

“If they’re making up numbers about jobs their producing in order to inflate what that compensation would be, that’s a second problem,” Crist told 8 On Your Side.

Peachey has not responded to our request for comment on all of this, but CareerSource Pinellas Chairman of the Board Aundre Green sent a letter to local public officials and other board members Tuesday, claiming that Peachey’s salary has erroneously been inflated in press reports.

Green insists that Peachey’s annual pay is closer to $300,000 than the nearly half a million dollars cited in newspaper reports. Green says one of the job agencies reimburses the other agency for 50 percent of Peachey’s pay, so adding the two sums listed in separate financial reports is incorrect.

According to those reports, Peachey works 30 hours a week for Hillsborough and 30 hours a week for Pinellas. In other words, he’s holding down two part-time jobs.

Green also says in his letter that if the State of Florida disagrees with how the Pinellas and Hillsborough CareerSource agencies report job numbers, they will gladly change the way they do business to make things right.

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