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Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance fires manager over inside deal

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance awarded a $23,000 contract last summer to a company founded weeks earlier by one of its managers, the St. Petersburg Times has learned.

That manager, Shantae Gilmer, was fired after the Times began asking questions.

Gilmer, 32, started Expanding Visions Inc. on June 3, according to state corporate records. Initially, she was listed as registered agent and vice president. Her husband, Dwight Gilmer, held the title of president.

Then things changed.

Just days before Expanding Visions secured its contract with the Workforce Alliance to provide job training to teenagers, the Gilmers revised the corporate record. Their names and address were removed, and the name David Wright appeared.

Wright was now the company's sole corporate officer.

Workforce Alliance officials said they fired Gilmer last week after learning that she failed to disclose her affiliation with Expanding Visions. She was earning $65,000 a year there.

"That (disclosure) should have been done," interim president Ed Peachey said. "And it should have been done in writing."

Shantae Gilmer couldn't be reached for comment. But Dwight Gilmer, 36, says his wife informed the alliance of her connection to Expanding Visions.

"The unfortunate part is that for some reason no one over there remembers that," said Gilmer, who has taught classes at the Workforce Alliance. "It's kind of funny how everyone at TBWA is trying to cover themselves."

Her firing is the latest blow for the embattled Workforce Alliance, a publicly funded agency that provides job training to the unemployed and working poor.

Chief executive Renee Benton Gilmore resigned Feb. 15 amid accusations of lavish spending on food for its staff. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the agency and its vendors. The FDLE won't say whether Expanding Visions is part of that inquiry.

Additionally, the U.S. Labor Department and the Agency for Workforce Innovation are conducting separate investigations.

Peachey, who serves as president of WorkNet Pinellas, was brought to Tampa to stabilize the agency. He says it will take time.

"I think the administration, the Board of County Commissioners (and) the board of directors are going to be looking at a couple years of dealing with this before it's all resolved," he said.

Before Expanding Visions won its contract, Alayne Unterberger, executive director at the Florida Institute for Community Studies, got a visit from Dwight Gilmer.

She said Gilmer was interested in hiring her nonprofit to serve as a host site for the youth employment program, which was largely funded with federal stimulus money. Eventually, she said, Gilmer told her Wright would be her main contact.

But Unterberger said she has spoken to Wright only once, and that was over the phone. Despite multiple attempts to meet him, she has never seen him in person.

The Times also could not locate Wright. He couldn't be found at the Riverview apartment that Expanding Visions lists in corporate records as its address. He failed to return messages delivered via phone, e-mail and certified mail.

The teen job training ended in August. And on Tuesday, the institute finally received its payment from Expanding Visions: four money orders totaling $3,400.

All signed by Shantae Gilmer.

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report. Kevin Smetana can be reached at ksmetana@sptimes.com or (813) 610-1650. John Martin can be reached at jmartin@sptimes.com or (813)226-3372.

Key dates

. June 3, 2009

Shantae Gilmer, who worked at the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance, and her husband, Dwight, establish Expanding Visions Inc.

. July 1, 2009

The Gilmers remove themselves from the company, leaving a man named David Wright as the sole corporate officer.

. July 10, 2009

The Workforce Alliance approves a $23,000 contract with Expanding Visions.

. March 26, 2010 Shantae Gilmer is fired from her job with the Workforce Alliance.

Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance fires manager over inside deal 04/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 12:06am]
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