Recently, Renee Gilmore resigned as president and CEO of the Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. She resigned amid pending investigations and audits of improperly spending the alliance's money for expensive lunches, catering and other meals. These questionable meals amounted to more than $121,000. At one of those luncheons, a slice of cheesecake cost $9, plus tax and gratuity.
Here is the sad part. This senseless escapade of spending the taxpayers' money really destroyed the people's faith in our local government. My neighbors in Hillsborough are experiencing unemployment, foreclosures, and many can't feed their own families. Just think of how many poor and unemployed people could have benefited from these food galas? How else should we feel after seeing on TV the piles of expensive meals that none of us tasted, but paid for?
Now, the search is under way for Gilmore's replacement. There should also be another search for a new board of directors. They should be leaving through that same exit door behind Gilmore. It's just not fair to single her out for the agency's misdeeds. Gilmore worked for the board. They were her supervisors. The buck should stop at their doorsteps. Board members were asleep at the switch of public accountability.
I have just one question to ask the board members: chairman Dale Schumacher, treasurer Ron Smith, secretary Linda Devine, Simone Gans Barefield, James Freyvogel, Craig Johnson, Lt. Col. Jeffery Krusinski, Stan McIntosh, Paul Orvosh, John Howell, Chris Roederer, James H. Scheiner, County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, Holly Tomlin, Brian Lamb, Wynne Tye, Dennis Meyers and Randall King.
What is, or should I ask, what was your primary duty as a board member of the Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance?
A) Get dressed up and look cute at board meetings?
B) Enjoy slices of $9 cheesecake?
C) Add another line to your resume or bio?
D) Rubber stamp all of the alliance's decisions?
E) Protect and safeguard taxpayers' interests?
If you picked "E" as I did, then why are you all still board members? You all have failed the taxpayers terribly.
When an individual serves on a board of directors, it's a job that requires oversight and responsibility, not a position of vanity. How could the excessive spending on meals go on for so long without the board's knowledge?
Each board member should share in the cost of reimbursing the taxpayers out of their pockets. Why shouldn't they? I think the alliance's senior management should also share in repaying the money via payroll deductions.
The amount spent on those meals could have employed 10 people for one year.
Going forward, a new board should examine the level of compensation for top staffers. Hey, we are in a recession. They should also look at the ratio of people who apply for employment via the alliance and the actual number of job placements.
As for the current situation, I am amazed at all of the politicians, local and state, who are jumping in front of TV cameras and falling all over themselves expressing their outrage. Where were they when that cheesecake was being sliced and served?
So come on all you current board members, do the right thing for the taxpayers — head for the exit door.