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Pinellas agency upholds firing of nonprofit's executive director

TARPON SPRINGS — The executive director of a local nonprofit who was fired last month, then reinstated by the county agency that funds it, has been fired — again.

David Archie said Monday he received a termination letter from Pinellas Core Management Services on Jan. 12 saying the agency was allowing the termination to go through, at the direction of the Citizens Alliance for Progress board that voted 4-3 to fire him and two other staffers on Dec. 18.

PCMS had reinstated Archie and two other staffers Dec. 24, putting them on paid administrative leave while it investigated the way the firings were handled. The dismissals were affirmed, though the investigation was not yet complete.

"This whole thing doesn't really make a lot of sense to me," Archie said. "Wouldn't you want to at least halfway complete the investigation?"

Pinellas Core Management Services manages small nonprofits like CAP, a community outreach organization, for the county's Juvenile Welfare Board. The JWB uses tax dollars to provide funding for social services programs for children and families.

Paul Lackey, executive director of PCMS, said he is preparing a report on the investigation that will be presented to the PCMS board on Thursday.

He declined to comment on what is in the report.

As to why PCMS would uphold the firings of Archie and the other staffers — administrative services manager Leah Johnson and program director Frances Serrano-Lux — before the investigation was complete, Lackey said the action was taken because PCMS cannot pay two salaries for the same position at the same time. Archie was paid about $52,000 a year.

Lackey said CAP board treasurer Ed Cole called PCMS a few weeks ago saying CAP wanted to move forward and hire new staffers to fill the positions.

"If we held them up, we would be artificially putting them in a position of failure by not letting them get their work done," Lackey said.

Lackey reinstated the three because he was concerned that someone may have told CAP board members at their Dec. 18 meeting that the organization's funding would be cut off by PCMS if Archie was not dismissed.

"If this information was portrayed, that PCMS was leading this effort to fire these employees, this was an out-and-out fabrication," Lackey said then.

At the time, Cole said he had "no knowledge" of any such statements.

But minutes from the Dec. 18 meeting show that Cole did make a statement to that effect.

When another CAP board member, Charlotte Williams, asked if PCMS is "going to close the whole thing down?" Cole responded, "They will."

Board president Annie Dabbs, also a PCMS board member, made similar statements.

When asked if PCMS had enough information to shut down the center, Dabbs said, "I believe they do. They don't tell me that, but I do believe with all the information and the correspondence I have had … yes."

Cole said Monday he had not heard from PCMS officials about Archie's reinstatement on Dec. 24. "I read it in the paper, honest to God," Cole said.

Cole also said he had not been contacted by PCMS officials about the second termination.

Lackey said that was false.

"That's incredible," Lackey said. "We had a bookkeeper out there last week a whole day. Our operations director has been out there, monitoring to make sure they are providing the services they're contracted to provide. For him to say he hasn't had an opportunity to talk to us is unbelievable."

Cole and Dabbs, who could not be reached for comment, have declined to discuss why Archie was let go after 15 years as executive director. But Lackey said in December that Cole and Dabbs told him it had to do with missing credit card and payment receipts. Archie has denied he's done anything inappropriate.

"I look forward to the completion of whatever happens with the quote-unquote investigation," Archie said, "because the truth is already starting to come out."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow @sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Pinellas agency upholds firing of nonprofit's executive director 01/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:25pm]
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