Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

County audit of Homeless Recovery program echoes Times stories

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's Homeless Recovery program did not inspect properties where for years it sent homeless people and millions of public dollars, had no policies to respond to complaints that places were filthy and dangerous, and had insufficient controls over how it spent money, a county audit released Friday has found.

The audit echoes a series of Tampa Bay Times stories last year that prompted county management to shutter the agency and outsource homeless services to local nonprofit organizations.

County commissioners ordered the audit last September, after the Times reported Homeless Recovery had paid former Tampa Port Authority chairman William "Hoe" Brown more than $600,000 over 15 years to house the poor on properties including bug-infested trailers he crammed behind his Seminole Heights business office. The Times continued investigating Homeless Recovery and found the agency paid millions of dollars for years housing the homeless in crime-ridden slums across Tampa. Monday, the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the issue.

Michelle Leonhardt, the county's internal auditor, will formally present the audit to commissioners at Wednesday's board meeting. Leonhardt has already briefed commissioners and County Administrator Mike Merrill on her findings. "We all kind of knew it was dysfunctional, and it needed fixing," Merrill said, adding he was happy Leonhardt did not find any instances of fraud.

Leonhardt and her staff spent three months examining Homeless Recovery payment records, interviewing staff and observing operations of the since-closed program, which tried to help the homeless off the streets by linking them with transitional housing and vouchers for bus passes, food and other services.

The audit details incidents previously reported by the Times involving Brown's properties. In late 2011, after several complaints about filthy and unsafe conditions, Homeless Recovery briefly stopped sending people there, but then resumed without explanation. Leonhardt could not find any evidence Jim Silverwood, then the program's manager, had followed up on complaints.

Silverwood resigned last September and his supervisor — Sammie Walthour — was fired days later. The rest of Homeless Recovery's staff has been reassigned to other departments, and the county now pays nonprofits like Metropolitan Ministries, the Salvation Army and the Agency for Community Treatment Services, more commonly known as ACTS, to provide homeless services.

Leonhardt will audit the outsourced homeless services later this year to ensure controls are in place that didn't exist at Homeless Recovery, like inspections of properties and better tracking of where clients go. Leonhardt hopes to complete that audit by the end of the year, she said Friday.

Also Wednesday, Leonhardt will present to commissioners her audit of another controversial agency — Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission. The agency, which regulates cars for hire, such as taxis and limousines, has also drawn complaints of poor oversight.

Leonhardt found several areas for improvement, including writing stricter policies over PTC employee use of take-home cars.

The audits are on the consent agenda for Wednesday's meeting, meaning that unless commissioners request to talk about them, they will not be up for public discussion.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or

County audit of Homeless Recovery program echoes Times stories 04/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 18, 2014 11:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. University student accused of making bomb threat on Snapchat


    DELAND — A Florida university student is accused of making threats on Snapchat to "bomb" or "gas" the campus.

    Stetson University freshman Griffin Powell, 18, is accused of making threats on Snapchat to "bomb" or "gas" the campus in DeLand.

  2. Tiki Barber will join his brother, Ronde, on Fox broadcast for Bucs-Giants


    FOX announced Monday night that former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber will have a familiar face joining him as a guest analyst for the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants game in Tampa: his twin brother Tiki, who will join …

    Tiki Barber, right, will join his brother, Ronde, left, as a guest analyst on the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants broadcast on FOX. [Times files (2006)]
  3. Cannons will fire again when Bucs return to Raymond James Stadium


    As good as the Bucs looked in their season-opening 29-7 win against the Bears on Sunday, fans couldn't help but notice that the success didn't sound the same at Raymond James Stadium.

     Ron Gutschmidt is perched on top of the Buccaneer pirate ship ready to activate the ship's cannons with the press of a button after a Buccaneer touchdown. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Rick and Tom podcast: How should Joe Maddon be remembered tonight?

    The Heater

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones talk about Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014 in the latest edition of our Rick and Tom podcast. They discuss the mixed emotions …

    Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since he left the Rays in 2014. [Getty Images]
  5. Watch live: President Trump's speech to the U.N. General Assembly


    UNITED NATIONS — U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron are expected to take the spotlight at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations — but it's the tough global challenges from the nuclear threat in North Korea and the plight of Myanmar's minority Muslims to the …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in New York. [Associated Press]