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Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance examines Strategywise contract

TAMPA — An upcoming Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance graduation that is budgeted for $95,000 likely will not happen, the agency's interim president said Thursday.

The publicly funded job training center has paid its largest vendor, Strategywise, more than $250,000 over the last three years to put on year-end ceremonies for former welfare recipients trying to become self-sufficient.

The events took place at the upscale Pepin Hospitality Centre in Tampa. Another is scheduled for June.

"I would not consider that to be a necessary and reasonable expenditure," said Ed Peachey, who recently took over leading the agency.

Strategywise, a Tallahassee consulting firm, has secured more than $2 million in contracts from the Workforce Alliance since 2007. The company is run by Laurise Thomas, a felon whose former sister-in-law, Renee Benton Gilmore, was the Workforce Alliance chief executive until resigning Feb. 15 amid accusations of excessive spending.

Last month, the St. Petersburg Times first reported on Strategywise's lucrative contracts and ties to Gilmore.

Peachey, who also is president of WorkNet Pinellas, said he plans to spend the next week evaluating the services Strategywise provides and the costs the Workforce Alliance incurs as a result.

It is possible, he said, that the current $710,275 contract could be terminated.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation is under way on the Workforce Alliance and its vendors.

Kevin Smetana can be reached at ksmetana@sptimes.com or (813) 610-1650.

Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance examines Strategywise contract 04/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 1:05am]

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