The mystery surrounding the firing of David Archie from his longtime post as executive director of a private nonprofit community agency in Tarpon Springs just continues to grow. Was he the victim of character assassination, and if so, was it at the hands of someone associated with his agency or forces outside of Tarpon Springs? Archie and the community are entitled to answers, and the organizations and processes involved in his ouster deserve thorough scrutiny.
For 15 years Archie was executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Progress, a Tarpon-based organization that runs the neighborhood family center in the Union Academy area. Much of CAP's funding comes from the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board, a countywide taxing authority that funds programs for children and families. Using tax dollars, the Juvenile Welfare Board contracted with people and organizations to provide programming such as tutoring, after school programs, budget counseling and other forms of assistance in certain neighborhoods.
That funding typically was delivered by JWB directly to the contractor. But more recently, a sort of "middle man" was created at the behest of JWB. That middle man is Pinellas Core Management Services, which takes the tax dollars from JWB and funnels them to the contractors such as Archie's agency.
In mid December, Archie was fired abruptly by his CAP board in a split vote. The move to fire him was led by board president Annie Dabbs and board treasurer Ed Cole. Dabbs indicated there was money missing from CAP, though she offered no proof. In fact, she said she didn't need any proof. She also indicated to the CAP board members that if they didn't fire Archie, Pinellas Core Management Services was going to cut off CAP's funding.
There are two reasons why CAP board members might have believed Dabbs. One, she was also a board member of Pinellas Core Management Services, so she was in a position to know, right? And two, a Clearwater program similar to CAP, which also received its JWB funding through Pinellas Core Management Services, was shut down recently after allegations of improper behavior.
An uproar followed Archie's firing. He is a former Tarpon Springs city commissioner and a respected figure in the city. He denied that there had been any misuse of funds at CAP. He got a lawyer and said he would defend his good name.
Pinellas Core Management Services' executive director, Paul Lackey, decided to launch an "inquiry" of Archie's firing. Lackey concluded that Dabbs should not have said his agency planned to withdraw funding if Archie wasn't fired.
Lackey said neither his organization nor JWB had anything to do with Archie's firing. Yet Lackey would not reinstate Archie, even though Archie is paid by Lackey's agency and considers himself an employee of Pinellas Core Management Services.
No matter who is to blame, there is something wrong with a system that allows the destruction of reputations and programs on little or no evidence.