Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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."

Hold the holy oil: Iorio to straighten out Children's Board 07/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  3. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event

    Politics

    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.
  5. As the curtain rises on the Straz Center's biggest shows, the spotlight is on parking

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The Broadway Series, the most lucrative shows of the year for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, start this week, and this year the center wants all the drama to take place on stage, not during the drive to the theater.

    With downtown Tampa getting busier at night and on weekends, city officials and administrators from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts have been working on ways to unsnarl traffic and help visitors find parking when there are lots of events at the same time. CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times (2009)