TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance will have to pay back $147,128 it improperly spent on meals and entertainment, a state inspector general has concluded.
An 83-page report by the Office of the Inspector General itemizes a litany of food, entertainment and other unauthorized purchases — including Cheesecake Factory meals and a meeting at a comedy club — made by the agency under then-chief executive Renee Benton Gilmore.
Gilmore resigned Feb. 15 amid accusations of lavish spending.
The Workforce Alliance is a publicly funded agency that provides job training to the unemployed and working poor.
"No longer will they be able to spend dollars so outrageously," said state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who pushed legislation to tighten regulation on the state's job boards. "I am extremely disappointed that over $147,000 of taxpayer money was spent to entertain board members and employees of the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance. I would encourage the board to immediately refund the taxpayer money."
The agency cannot use federal, state or other tax dollars to make the repayment.
The report, prepared for the state Agency for Workforce Innovation and dated Wednesday, breaks down the unauthorized spending:
• $34,028.29 for meals for employees.
• $60,468.89 spent on the awards at a banquet.
• $13,195 for sponsorships or donations.
• $11,967 for entertainment costs at corporate functions.
• $22,800 for "outreach."
• $4,669 for "promotion" materials that become personal property of employees.
"When you think about it, the Tampa Bay area, specifically where it operates, it has a double-digit unemployment. Those tax dollars are to be used to help people to get trained and find them a job," Fasano said. "And yet some of these dollars were being used to entertain and feed — with a lot of cheesecake and cupcakes."
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.