Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission needs reform

As you are, no doubt, a great admirer of and advocate for good government, you will be heartened to know that Cesar Padilla, who serves as the executive director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, is simply a crackerjack employee known far and wide to be "excellent," "exemplary" and extremely "adept" in the handling of his wide-ranging duties.

Oh, oh, oh, almost forgot. Padilla also is revered for his wisdom and compassion, too, as well as his uncommon grace. In short, Cesar Padilla is nothing less than the cat's pajamas of public employees. Little wonder then that he received an almost perfect job performance score of fives on a one-to-five Likert scale of excellence. If there were any justice, we would just give him a six and retire the grading system, because no one else will ever be able to surpass Cesar Padilla's splendor in the workplace.

We know that when they create the executive director of the PTC Hall of Fame, Cesar Padilla will be enshrined at the head of the class, because it was Cesar Padilla himself who wrote his own job performance evaluation with the expectation it would be rubber-stamped by County Commissioner Victor Crist, who serves as PTC chairman of the board of directors. Oooops.

If mention of the PTC sparks a vague memory, you're not alone.

The PTC regulates stuff like towing companies, limo services and taxi cabs. And the PTC was also the perch former County Commissioner Kevin White, who practically walked around town with a neon sign over head advertising "Sleazy Pol for Sale or Rent by the Hour," used to shake down towing companies for bribes and other gratuities, which paved the way to a federal prison term.

Given the — ahem — somewhat less than virtuous nature of some of the businesses it regulates, Crist was somewhat taken aback to learn the PTC is an agency with no bylaws, nor mission statement, nor clearly defined rules, which while somewhat disconcerting, certainly offers the potential for plenty of fun.

Crist was not amused to discover he was about to assume the chairmanship of a county government agency with all the organizational structure of a snipe hunt.

Memo to Cesar Padilla: You might want to think about rewriting your love letter to yourself.

But Crist has a bigger problem to deal with beyond an executive director with a Donald Trump complex.

The PTC was a Frankenstein-esque bureaucracy that was created by the Florida Legislature, which means of course, this was a Miranda-right-in waiting. The agency is dependent on the fees charged to the companies it oversees to fund its operations and pay its employees, which is nothing more than a conflict of interest recipe to invite hanky-panky.

See: White, Kevin. But not for a couple more years.

As a former member of the Florida Legislature, Crist ought to be able to use his legislative expertise to persuade Tallahassee to reconstitute the PTC into an agency funded by taxpayer revenues, with whatever fees it collects deposited into the county's general fund.

It also might help if someone bothered to come up with a clearly defined set of guidelines so that the fine folks at the PTC know what to do when they come in to work.

This might be the perfect task for Cesar Padilla to undertake. Obviously a man who is so exemplary at doing whatever it is he does ought to be able to figure out just what he's so good at.

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