After two years of reimbursing its chief executive officer for taxi rides from her home to work and back, a Pinellas County nonprofit is asking her to return just over half of the $5,000 she collected.
In 2011, Sarah Snyder, CEO of the Homeless Leadership Board, had the first in a series of eye surgeries that left her unable to drive. She began taking taxicabs to and from work, an expense she charged to the organization. In the intervening two years, the 7-mile trip from her Seminole home to the group's office in Pinellas Park cost the group roughly $5,000, and some board members now say they were unaware that they were covering the cost of her travel.
Snyder said the reimbursements were approved by a former chairman of the board, who gave her a $150 monthly travel stipend in 2011.
On Monday morning, the Homeless Leadership Board's executive board agreed that Snyder could keep $2,400 — the amount she would have received if she'd been given only her monthly stipend — but she would have to return the other $2,968.
"I do think we need to be reimbursed," said Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, vice chairwoman of the board.
"As much as we all appreciate that Sarah's had some really difficult medical times, it's not appropriate to pay for transportation from home to work. It's just not."
Snyder, who has not been reimbursed for travel since April, agreed to the board's request.
"I'll write a check," she said.
Carlen Petersen, a former Clearwater City Council member who chairs the board, said Snyder should be given some "accommodations" in light of her medical struggles. Snyder has worked tirelessly, she said, and a previous board agreed to give her a travel stipend without placing stipulations on how it was to be used.
Travel records show that Snyder received the monthly reimbursement during the few months she could drive. But over the past two years, she has mainly relied on taxis. Most months, her total travel bill exceeded her $150 allotment.
The current board has never examined its travel stipend policy, Petersen said, because when the Homeless Leadership Board was formed in 2012 from a merger of the Homeless Leadership Network and the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, the new board adopted the personnel policies of the previous organizations without questioning them.
The board is planning to revise its policies, Petersen said. It is also drawing up a contract for Snyder, who has never had one.
Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.