TAMPA — More than half a dozen employees in the Hillsborough County clerk of courts traffic division are facing criminal investigations after an administrative review raised red flags.
"Based on what we found, we thought we should bring the Sheriff's Office in," said Pat Frank, clerk of the circuit court.
The clerk's traffic department collects fines and fees from parking and traffic violations ranging from $7 for clearance of a driver's license suspension to $441 for driving 20 mph over the speed limit in a school or construction zone. The division processes 250,000 citations annually, Frank said.
Frank wouldn't say Friday what led to the review, which began two weeks ago, because she doesn't want to jeopardize the criminal and administrative investigations. Six to eight employees are included in the investigation and several have resigned in the past two weeks, she said.
This is the third issue in the traffic department since Frank took office in January 2005.
Days after she was sworn in, 41,000 unprocessed citations were discovered under a desk in the traffic department. Most of the tickets had been returned to the clerk's office because of an error that needed to be corrected before they could be entered into a state database. Frank said she went to work to clear the backlog and put protocols in place to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
A year later, the Florida Highway Patrol arrested Veda Virgil for taking hundreds of dollars in bribes to falsify driver's license reinstatement forms. She pleaded guilty was sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years of probation.
"We do background checks on everyone we hire, and we assume that they will follow the guidelines we have set in place," Frank said.