Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Records: Hillsborough PTC chief takes side gig on agency clock

TAMPA — Cesar Padilla earns $107,000 a year as executive director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, the government agency that regulates cabs, limousines and other cars for hire.

He also has cleared $10,400 in the past 20 months moonlighting as a security guard hired by a private company through the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, where he is a reserve deputy, according to that agency's records.

County payroll records show that on at least 10 occasions, each a Monday, Padilla reported working a full shift of regular hours for the PTC or claiming sick leave while providing security for Tampa Machinery Auction.

On each of those occasions, Padilla collected $252 for working a 9-hour daytime shift for the Thonotosassa vehicle auctioneer, a Sheriff's Office log shows.

Padilla lists neither the Sheriff's Office nor Tampa Machinery Auction as a source of income on his most recent state-required statement of financial interests on file with the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections.

County Commissioner Victor Crist, who chairs the PTC, asked the county attorney Thursday to look into the matter, calling the revelations a "great concern."

"It's one thing if you're moonlighting on your day off and you registered that as your day off," Crist said. "It's another thing if you're supposed to be at your desk and you're getting paid by someone else."

Attempts to reach Padilla were not successful. An aide said he was out of the office and won't be returning until next week.

Mario Tamargo, the PTC's chief inspector, who often serves as its spokesman, said he could not verify details of Padilla's off-duty work and how he squared it with his public duties.

While a governmental agency, the PTC derives money that pays for its 10-person staff, office space and equipment through fees it charges companies it regulates.

"All I can tell you is that I know that he worked once a month, on Mondays. He used to go and work the auction," Tamargo said. "What kind of time he was taking or when he was working, I don't know."

Sheriff's Office records show Padilla typically also worked one Saturday a month for Tampa Machinery Auction, generally logging an additional 10 to 11 hours each time at $28 an hour. Tamargo said the agency has no policy against moonlighting as long as it takes place on an employee's own time.

Padilla has engaged in the practice off and on since 2001, according to the Sheriff's Office, getting commissioned mostly in recent years for the auction house but also pulling duties at high school football games.

The PTC's inspectors are each classified as law enforcement officers, carry guns and have arrest powers, though they seldom exercise them. They maintain their certification through the Sheriff's Office, and all of them have worked for the agency previously as full-time deputies. That qualifies them to pick up security gigs through the Sheriff's Office.

This is the second time this year that Crist has raised questions about the actions of Padilla.

In January, after becoming the PTC's chairman, he was alarmed to find out that the executive director routinely filled out his own annual evaluation in the chairman's name — numerical scores, comments and all.

At the time, Crist said he was surprised by the lack of policies governing the conduct of agency employees and the board. He has since pushed for creation of guidelines, as well as an employment contract for Padilla.

Padilla has not had a contract since being elevated to interim executive director from chief inspector in 2007 at the urging of former County Commissioner Kevin White, now in prison for accepting bribes while chairman of the PTC board. Fellow PTC members approved a more than doubling of Padilla's pay around the same time.

In negotiating with Padilla, Crist said he proposed keeping his salary the same, requiring he submit to annual background checks and forbidding him from taking outside work.

Contracts for other government agency heads, including county Administrator Mike Merrill and county Attorney Chip Fletcher, have similar bans.

"At his level, executive director, you have to have 100 percent loyalty to your employer," Crist said.

Padilla objected, Crist said, arguing for additional pay if he were to give up his side work through the Sheriff's Office. Crist wasn't aware of that work and, upon verifying it through the Sheriff's Office, discovered Padilla was moonlighting on days he reported working for the PTC or being out sick.

Before learning that much, he advised Padilla he should be reporting the side work on state disclosure forms and was told by Padilla that he'd be filing an amendment to reflect his shifts through the Sheriff's Office.

The PTC governing board is made up county commissioners and representatives of Hillsborough's three city governments.

Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, who serves on the board, said he doesn't have a problem with Padilla doing outside work on his own time but thinks he should disclose it.

"If he's taking sick leave time to work in another position, then I have a problem with that," Reddick said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

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