Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board kills off administrative agency

CLEARWATER — After months of frustration and embarrassment, Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board on Thursday killed off an agency it created two years ago in hopes of stretching tax dollars and easing administrative headaches.

The agency was designed to help JWB-funded neighborhood groups keep their books straight. But instead it turned into a heavy-handed watchdog that shut down some grass-roots groups, threatened others and bred mistrust between the welfare board and the very people it relies on for programming.

"It would be wrong to say we were asleep at the switch,'' JWB executive director Gay Lancaster told her board of directors. "It would be right to say we had high expectations and certainly those expectations were not met.''

At issue is an agency called Pinellas Core Management Services (PCMS) and its relationship to family centers and churches that tutor and counsel children in some of the county's poorest neighborhoods.

While respected in the community, these small groups sometimes struggle with accounting and documentation. In one case, a group turned in ATM slips with hand-written notes about how the money was spent.

So in 2007, the JJWB told senior employee Paul Lackey to set up PCMS to take over bookkeeping, payroll, group insurance and other back-office functions for the neighborhood groups.

But the solution became the problem.

Lackey removed JWB funding from some neighborhood groups and threatened others without offering traditional corrective action plans. He was so late paying bills that some groups had their power temporarily shut off. He tried to operate outside Florida's Open Records Law and keep his records private. According to JWB staff, he would tell them one thing and his board of directors another.

Lancaster and her JWB staff were trying to correct some of these problems when an audit of PCMS released last week ended all further negotiation.

It showed that PCMS was worse at handling money and cash flow than many of the neighborhood groups it was supposed to supervise. Besides bounced checks and late bills, one employee ended up lending $35,000 to the agency at the end of the fiscal year, when books need to be balanced.

On Thursday, the JWB's board, composed of prominent public officials and gubernatorial appointees, voted to dismantle PCMS and have JWB staff take over its duties for the time being.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe and several other board members said they see this move as temporary until a new support agency can be set up. Otherwise, JWB will stray into a gray area of both funding programs and carrying out program duties.

"I'm afraid we are going to be right back in the position of this board dealing with these problems rather than dealing with them in the community,'' McCabe said.

In a side matter, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch apologized to fellow JWB board members for not revealing that his wife, Donna, worked for Lackey and PCMS until the St. Petersburg Times disclosed it.

Her salary is paid by the Eckerd Family Foundation, which routes some of its funding for neighborhood groups through PCMS. She has a history of working with children in St. Petersburg's Childs Park neighborhood, Welch said, and Lackey told him there was no conflict.

Several board members and the board's attorney assured Welch they had no problems with the relationship.

The PCMS board will meet today to agree to dissolve, said its president, Elise Minkoff.

Unless Eckerd can quickly figure out a new way to route its money to neighborhood groups, that would mean that Donna Welch would work directly for JWB.

In that case, Ken Welch said, either his wife will quit her job or he will resign from the JWB board and the County Commission will have to appoint a new representative.

Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board kills off administrative agency 04/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 7:47am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.