Thursday, May 24, 2018
Politics

Hold the holy oil: Iorio to straighten out Children's Board

Your kids just overturned the couch, tore the stuffing out of the Barcalounger and are about to set the drapes on fire. But wait — Supernanny is at the door to save the day (or at least the curtains.)

That's the latest twist in the tale of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County. Place in chaos? Call in Tampa's no-nonsense former mayor, Pam Iorio.

Okay, so nothing at the largely taxpayer-funded agency — created for the important purpose of addressing the county's child welfare needs — is actually aflame. But the news has not been good.

It started with a wacky story of how employees arrived at work to find a strange sticky substance spread around, got worried given the state of the world and called police. Turned out executive director Luanne Panacek had brought in a pal over the weekend to pray, bless the (by the way, public) building and spread holy oil after what she called a "meeting from hell."

Panacek told a reporter that it was only "a teensy-eensy little vial" of oil and also that she thought "most people here are Christian."

And yes, you could say Panacek is the anti-Pam.

Things went south. Turns out most folks whose tax dollars fund the Children's Board had not a clue what it did, not a good face for a public agency. A series of sobering stories by the Times' Jodie Tillman detailed complaints that it had morphed beyond its purpose into an empire and had awarded nearly $500,000 in no-bid contracts to people with connections to the board. Then a study found the place in crisis, with most employees believing the bosses lack integrity and ethics.

The bad news kept coming. Finally, at the behest of the board chairman, enter Practical Pam. And forgive the familiarity, but she is very much a Pam, two steady, sturdy consonants and a single serviceable vowel, a name to get the job done.

Around here, when politics and public positions spin embarrassingly out of control even by lax Tampa standards, this is how we do it. Once upon a time it was former state Supreme Court justice and county administrator Fred Karl we called to right a listing ship. Notably, he has been one of Iorio's trusted advisers. Hey, we do pass down local tradition beyond too much grog at Gasparilla.

Post-mayorhood, Iorio has written a book on leadership. She speaks on the subject and is currently contemplating a book on compromise (though she may have to translate that foreign phrase, given the current state of politics in America). She remains a rumored contender for governor, if ever a ship needed righting, and I do not let a conversation pass without asking. (She told me she has no plans to run for anything — but remember, she wasn't running for mayor, until she decided, and suddenly she was.)

Panacek agreed this week to step down. Iorio says she'll do an interim six months until a permanent leader is found. Prudent Pam, she declines to assess blame: "It needs a fresh set of eyes," she says, "and a different leadership style."

Couldn't get much more different, and just in time: The property tax that finances the Children's Board must be reauthorized by voters in four years, time enough to restore confidence and, politics and theater aside, get kids services they need.

Says the ex-mayor tapped to save the day, or at least this important agency: "I'll give it a shot."

Comments
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Updated: 7 hours ago
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18