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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

WorkNet Pinellas offers little info on petition flap



The chairman of the WorkNet Pinellas board, Bill Protz, said today he's not worried about losing federal money for WorkNet after students in the workforce agency's YouthBuild program were discovered seeking petitions for County Commission candidate Beverley Billiris.

But Protz said he hasn't gotten all the information he needs to assess how the miscue was handled. Not that much was given or sought during Wednesday's board meeting.

"I think they should have given us more clarification," said Clearwater City Council member George Cretekos, a board member, noting the troubles over spending at Hillsborough's workforce agency has prompoted public skepticism.

President Ed Peachey told board members only that the YouthBuild program director Robyn Poppick was dismissed, and he has provided information to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Labor Department has launched an investigation into how student in YouthBuild -- funded by $700,000 from the stimulus -- would up seeking petition signatures for Billiris. The agency could receive $400,000 more, but only if federal officials approve of the handling of YouthBuild.

Peachey told Bay Buzz that Poppick, who contributed $50 to Billiris' campaign, was given no severance but declined to immediately provide her salary. He said the Labor Department was told in advance that she would be fired. Jeanette Gemmer, special projects coordinator for youths, will now oversee the YouthBuild program.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:28pm]


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