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Facing firing, senior officer quits troubled Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership

BROOKSVILLE — The senior vice president of the workforce board that faces accusations of financial mismanagement resigned Wednesday, two days before directors were scheduled to vote on his dismissal.

Terry Williams sent his letter of resignation dated June 24 to the Pasco Hernando workforce board.

Last week, the board of directors' executive committee voted to recommend that the full board fire Williams and president and chief executive officer Lee Ellzey.

The board, which had already suspended both men without pay, meets today to vote on those recommendations.

The action came in response to a recent report by the state Office of Inspector General that said Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership, as the workforce board is known, had approved $123,000 in training reimbursements for Optima HVAC and Axon Technologies, two Port Richey companies owned by then-board chairman Steven Jensen.

That worked out to a rate of $3,844 an hour, which was "extraordinarily high and deviated from established practice," the report said.

Jensen resigned last week, though it wasn't clear if he was giving up his board position or just the chairmanship.

On Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners answered that question by voting to remove him from the board. Jensen was a commission appointee, recommended by Ellzey.

"I just wanted to eliminate all ambiguity," said Commissioner Michael Cox, who serves on the agency's board of directors.

At the first workforce board meeting after the release of the report, Cox had asked Ellzey to resign. Ellzey resisted.

On Thursday, Cox said he would have asked Williams to resign, too, if he'd been in the room. Cox said he had little doubt that the board would side with its executive committee's recommendations.

"In my mind, he was going to be fired," he said.

In addition to the questions raised about workforce training costs, the Inspector General's report outlined concerns about Williams, saying he "used his position to influence his subordinate to hire his father."

His father, who was receiving unemployment checks at the time, asked that paychecks be made out to his wife, the report says.

Williams attached to his resignation letter a brief response to some of the report's allegations.

"I would like you take these into consideration with possibly providing me with a severance package," Williams wrote.

In his response, he said he felt he had followed policy and disclosed the relationship with his father.

"I feel there was nothing that was done that was inappropriate. It was made very clear that I would have nothing to do with any of the bids or rewards of the contract," he wrote.

The workforce board is one of 24 in the state. It receives federal funding to help local businesses train — and retain — their employees. It also provides programs to help people find jobs.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Facing firing, senior officer quits troubled Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 8:53pm]

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