Monday, August 20, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas construction board member denies influencing rule change

LARGO –– A member of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board has denied allegations that he abused his position to push through a rule change that could have benefitted his own business.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

Jack Joyner said the rule he pushed for protected workers instead of padding his company's profits. He has since resigned from the board, but said he did nothing wrong in this case.

Pinellas County Inspector General Hector Collazo Jr. issued a scathing report Sept. 20 that outlined 93 problems with the agency tasked with protecting the public from shoddy contractors.

One of the issues the inspector general found, the report said, was that the owner of Jack Joyner Heating & Air Conditioning in Clearwater used his capacity as a board member to push through a rule change in 2015 lowering the height of stands needed to install air conditioners on roofs in Pinellas County.

Joyner called a meeting of a small panel of board members within the agency that sets the rules for gas lines and air conditioning units, the report said, and used his position to "influence other board members."

That panel later agreed to lower the air conditioner stands. Joyner voted to approve that rule change when it went before the full board. But the inspector general's report said Joyner should have abstained from voting and filed a disclosure form with the state outlining his conflict on interest.

"It was totally false," Joyner said of the allegation. "If I benefitted from it, so did every other AC contractor and homeowner. It was common sense. It was unsafe. I didn't do that to benefit myself."

Joyner said the lower air conditioner stands he advocated for eliminated the need for installers to use 6-foot ladders on roofs and have an additional worker help repair or replace the units. The panel approved the change only after roofing contractors agreed that it would help minimize safety risks, Joyner said.

Collazo declined to comment about Joyner's remarks.

TAMPA BAY TIMES INVESTIGATION: THE PINELLAS COUNTY CONSTRUCTION LICENSING BOARD

Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board plays fast and loose with disciplinary process

Pinellas licensing board leader Rodney Fischer described as a 'bully' and 'suspicious' in clashes with employees and county officials

Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

Times investigation: Pinellas County construction agency steered work to board member

A series of Tampa Bay Times reports earlier this year detailed the many problems with how the agency was managed, how leadership and staff failed to followed their own rules and state law and how the board treated consumers and contractors alike when deciding disciplinary cases.

County commissioners and legislators have called for the board to be reformed, but that only be done through legislation. Aside from the inspector general's report, a grand jury report that was also released Sept. 20 suggested ways to reform the agency.

Joyner, who has been involved with the licensing board since the 1970s, resigned from his unpaid position the day after the inspector general's office released its 180-page report.

He later rescinded the resignation at the urging of several board members, Joyner said, adding: "I did nothing wrong. I'm staying on until I'm kicked off. I've always put Clearwater, Pinellas County and Florida first."

Joyner said that's why he believes he's still a member of the board. However, his term expired on Sept. 30. In fact, he was one of nine members whose terms expired. Together with a public official retiring, that leaves the board with just five out of 21 members.

The all-volunteer board has been shorthanded since 2016, when County Commissioner Charlie Justice accused former executive director Rodney Fischer of rigging the nomination process to keep his hand-picked candidates on the board. The Pinellas County Commission never approved any of Fischer's seven nominations.

The construction licensing board needs at least 11 members to vote on disciplinary actions and approve agency expenditures. But it's unknown when it will get back to 11 members.

The board's next scheduled meeting is Nov. 21, but an emergency meeting could be called before the end October because the agency is trying to finalize a plan to rent cheaper offices from Pinellas County. The board would have to vote before Nov. 1 to terminate its lease in a bid to save money.

The Pinellas construction licensing board's interim director, Gay Lancaster, said she plans to ask the county commission to reappoint the agency's current board members.

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente

 
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