Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch accuses CareerSource Pinellas CEO Ed Peachy of violating rules
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch accused the leader of CareerSource Pinellas of terminating a contract with an accounting firm without approval from the agency's 29-member board.
Welch lodged the complaint Wednesday against CareerSource president and CEO Ed Peachy during a monthly board meeting. Welch said he discovered that the contract with CliftonAllenLarson had been terminated on Aug. 26 --- four days before Peachy called an emergency meeting of CareerSource's audit committee to consider the move.
On Aug. 30, the committee voted 3-2 against the measure. Peachy wanted to hire a new auditor after learning that CliftonAllenLarson hired Sue Pagan, the former chief financial officer at CareerSource Pinellas. Welch said he called the accounting firm to ask about the conflict and discovered that a CareerSource attorney already sent an email to end the contract.
"This is the issue of the highest concern to me," Welch said, adding he would alert county commissioners and administrators about the move.
"Who authorized this termination on Aug. 26? To this day, the audit committee has not given approval to terminate the contract."
CareerSource Pinellas, formerly called WorkNet Pinellas, is one of Florida's 24 regional help wanted centers is a one-stop shop primarily to help jobless and those seeking career-advancing opportunities. The executive committee consists of business leaders, elected officials and some members appointed by the county.
Peachy did not explain why he failed to tell the audit committee about the contract termination. But he told the board he consulted with the board's former chair, current chair and others before directing an attorney to end the contract. They all believed a conflict existed, Peachy added.
"We wanted to make sure there was independence," Peachy said.
Charlie Harris, attorney for CareerSource Pinellas, said it didn't seem "out of the ordinary or inconsistent" to terminate the contract once Peachy and others approved.
"I hope I did not exceed what I was asked to do," Harris said, adding: "I hope the board understands my limited role."
"Decisions are not supposed to be made before they come to the audit committee," Welch replied.
Welch also called Peachy's decision "flawed" because Pagan had worked at the firm in 2015 when it performed a CareerSource audit, but she didn't play a role in the audit. Peachy's role as a voting member of the audit committee could also violate Florida's Sunshine Laws, Welch said.
He asked the board to examine the bylaws to eliminate possible conflicts. Board chairman Aundre Green of General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems said the board would consider the request.
Besides Welch, two others on the audit committee, Jewel White, an assistant county attorney, and Bill Berger, an employee in the county budget office, voted against Peachy's request to end the contract. Welch wanted Berger to address the board on Wednesday.
"I think we'll meet with audit committee," Green said, rejecting Welch's request.
After the meeting, Berger said he wanted to speak to the board.
"I 100 percent confirm everything Commissioner Welch said," Berger said.