There's a reason Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission gets bad press: The agency is a mess, a waste of money, riddled with ethical conflicts and virtually unaccountable. Now it turns out agency boss Cesar Padilla has been spending workdays moonlighting as a for-hire security guard at a Tampa auction house. The operation doesn't need him, and the county doesn't need the agency.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Bill Varian reports that records show that Padilla has cleared $10,400 in the past 20 months working as a private security guard hired through the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, where he is a reserve deputy. County payroll records show that on at least 10 occasions, Padilla reported he worked a full shift of regular hours for the PTC or claimed sick leave while on guard for the private company, Tampa Machinery Auction.
As the executive director of a regulatory agency, Padilla should have the judgment to recognize he can't moonlight as private muscle while he is on the clock for the agency at the same time. Having a chief executive who's paid $107,000 a year take private-paying gigs on the side demeans the integrity of the agency. And this is hardly the only example of Padilla's poor leadership. In January, the new PTC chairman, Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, was alarmed to discover that Padilla routinely filled out his own job evaluation. That exemplifies the wing-it mentality that takes the place of established workplace rules at the PTC. Crist is on the right path with his effort to professionalize the office environment. His plan to put Padilla on contract would be a start toward establishing some basic expectations. But his fellow PTC board members, all elected officials, have shown no real interest in cleaning up the agency.
There is a legitimate need to regulate the taxicab business. The government has an interest in ensuring that for-hire vehicles are safe and operable, and that drivers do not have criminal records or drug histories that endanger the public or passengers. But this function can be performed a number of ways, and it doesn't require tolerating the PTC. This is an agency, after all, that has a seven-member board overseeing a 10-member staff. It has spent thousands of tax dollars over the years on lobbyists in Tallahassee to justify its existence.
The PTC board should follow Crist's lead and quickly come to grips with this administrative fiasco. It also should explore a better framework for regulating cabs, limousines and other for-hire vehicles. The current setup protects the big cab companies at the expense of consumers and preserves a bureaucracy that does not recognize the difference between right and wrong.