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Rouson calls for criminal investigations into CareerSource Pinellas, Tampa Bay

“Finding the truth and determining whether or not there were ethical violations or criminal conduct that would warrant prosecution is essential,” the St. Petersburg state Senator wrote to State Attorney Bernie McCabe on Wednesday.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Pete
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Pete
Published Jan. 31, 2018
Updated Jan. 31, 2018

State. Sen Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is calling for criminal investigations into CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, job placement agencies that received millions in tax dollars last year to put people to work.

"Finding the truth and determining whether or not there were ethical violations or criminal conduct that would warrant prosecution is essential," Rouson wrote in a letter Wednesday to state attorneys Bernie McCabe, in Pinellas County, and Andrew Warren, in Hillsborough County.

McCabe subsequently told the Buzz: "We're conducting a preliminary inquiry to determine if there is jurisdiction to conduct an investigation."

Both CareerSource programs are already under investigation from the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which is trying to determine whether they falsely claimed to have helped people find jobs whom they never actually assisted.

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Investigators are also examining whether the offices used inflated job placement figures to earn state incentive money.

"As the only senator spanning Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, I have grave concern when a public agency operating in those counties is accused of gross financial mismanagement and abuse," Rouson wrote.

He called for prosecutors to "request all pertinent documents from both agencies to determine if either agency or both were engaged in fraudulent behavior, malfeasance or misuse of taxpayer dollars."

Rouson's letter specifically drew attention to the CEO of both job placement centers, Edward Peachey, who earned about $291,000 in 2016, according to payroll records.

"Request for response from the agency and its head Edward Peachey has been met with graveyard silence," Rouson wrote.

There are 24 CareerSource centers across Florida tasked with training and connecting people to jobs. The Hillsborough and Pinellas offices have for several years ranked among the state's best performers for job placement. Both are publicly funded non-profits overseen by boards that include local elected officials, lawyers and business professionals.

The state investigation was preceded by the Tampa Bay Times asking the DEO about the CareerSource job placement figures. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has said that CareerSource claimed credit for placing 624 people into jobs at his department, but he has no record of ever receiving recommendations from the agency. He ended the Sheriff's Office's contract with the job center earlier this month.

Rouson sent a similar letter requesting an investigation to state Senate President Joe Negron.

"My first and foremost concern is that this is a betrayal of those who need help the most and are trying to help themselves—unemployed job seekers," he wrote. "My fellow citizens who go to these agencies deserve training, not a fast shuffle."