Sunday, January 21, 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
Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

WASHINGTON ó Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making un...
Published: 01/20/18
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown wonít slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Published: 01/20/18
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They arenít just up for debate, they...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON ó The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trumpís inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

NEWARK, N.J. ó U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might spend 2018 asking voters to re-elect him and jurors to acquit him. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice told a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that they will seek a retrial of the Democratic sen...
Published: 01/19/18
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON ó A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER ó Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER ó By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows heís now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Hereís what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Hereís what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Published: 01/18/18
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES ó There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18