CLEARWATER ― The chair of Pinellas County’s Housing Finance Authority has resigned in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times story about his failure to disclose an arrest for a financial felony when he was 19.
Pinellas County Commission chair Karen Seel announced Casey Cane’s resignation at the end of Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Commissioners had taken no action against Cane, though the county’s inspector general and clerk of the circuit court recommended in July that the county commission remove him from his post for failing to disclose the arrest and for "unethical behavior'' while working on a home remodeling job.
Cane, 33, was among five unpaid members of the Housing Finance Authority, which provides affordable housing to Pinellas residents and handles millions of dollars in county money.
"The HFA board has and will continue to succeed in achieving the goals placed before them as part of the county’s initiative to address the lack (of) quality housing, which is greatly needed for our teachers, firefighters, law enforcement (and) active and retired military,'' Cane wrote Tuesday in an email to Seel and authority members announcing his resignation.
He added that while his resignation "comes on the heels of contention,'' he would continue his public service. Cane is also an elected Palm Harbor fire commissioner and is married to Lisa Cane, a member of the Pinellas County School Board.
A Pinellas native, Cane was 19 in 2006 when he was arrested for grand theft while working as a manager at a Bealls department store in Oldsmar.
Because of his job, Cane was able to process returns and give discounts. The store’s loss prevention team found that he had fraudulently returned items, putting the money back on his Visa card but keeping the merchandise. He also gave friends and relatives discounts of up 70 percent although employee discounts were only 20 percent.
Prosecutors upgraded the charge to scheme to defraud because of his "ongoing'' conduct. In 2007, Cane pleaded guilty. A judge withheld adjudication, ordered him to pay Bealls $785 in restitution and sentenced him to 12 months probation. He went on to get a general contractor’s license.
In applying to fill a vacancy on the Housing Finance Authority board in 2014, Cane filled out a form that asked: "Have you been convicted of a financial felony?'' Despite his guilty plea, he could truthfully answer "no'' because he had not been convicted.
To another question — "Have you ever been arrested, charged or indicted for a violation of any federal, state, county or municipal law? — Cane answered "yes.'' Asked to explain, he wrote: "traffic violations.”
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Cane told the Times last week that he did not think he had to disclose his arrest because adjudication was withheld.
He was appointed to the board in 2014 and reappointed last year. The inspector general’s office received four allegations that he had failed to disclose certain matters on his applications. The office substantiated one allegation, that he was "not forthcoming with the criminal charge.''
During the investigation, a fifth allegation emerged as part of a civil suit between Cane and a Crystal Beach woman. She said Cane transposed an engineer’s "title block'' — contact and qualification information — for another project onto a drawing Cane had provided for her remodeling job. That created the appearance that an engineer had generated and approved the drawing.
The engineer told the inspector general that Cane "fraudulently'' lifted his information. Cane said he did nothing improper because what he gave the homeowner was not an official blueprint.
Cane’s "actions not only misled a consumer but they also unnecessarily compromised an engineer’s professional certification,'' the Inspector General’s report said.
The state agency that regulates general contractors dismissed a complaint against Cane after finding "no probable cause'' that he had falsified information. Cane said the Pinellas inspector general knew about the dismissal and should have mentioned it in its report.
Cane and his construction company have had other issues. He was hit with a $102,000 judgment in August from a business-loan company, and faces two lawsuits claiming he owes a total of over $220,000 for rents and internet marketing services. He attributes those debts primarily to a "rather questionable employee'' who’s no longer with the company. He said he also has resolved four complaints of shoddy or incomplete work filed with the Better Business Bureau.
“I think my story is one where someone got in trouble but has given back thousands of hours to my community,'' Cane told the Times. "I know how one person might look at something but unless you know the details of each individual scenario you can’t pass judgment on it.''