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CareerSource Tampa Bay executive board says it needs answers from state in ongoing jobs controversy

Dick Peck is the chairman of the CareerSource Tampa Bay board. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Feb. 15, 2018

TAMPA — The executive board of CareerSource Tampa Bay wants the state to tell them whether the agency needs to change the way it reports job figures.

The executive committee voted to put the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity "on notice" that the jobs center wants an answer within "seven to 10 days."

"We have to get the decision out of the state," said chairman Dick Peck.

In question is whether CareerSource Tampa Bay, and its sister agency CareerSource Pinellas, can take credit for placing people into jobs who never sought the centers' assistance, but whose names and other personal information were pulled from hiring lists handed over by employers.

Both jobs centers are under investigation by the DEO, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The president and CEO of both agencies, Edward Peachey, has been placed on leave amid the inquiries.

The DEO said the local board "should serve its community with transparency, accountability and integrity and should follow the guidance that has been provided by DEO and CareerSource Florida."

The state provides guidance "through written policies, regular in-person meetings, annual conferences, technical assistance and more," DEO spokeswoman Tiffany Vause wrote in a statement. "No other local workforce development boards are being investigated for the manner of which they count job placements."

The CareerSource Tampa Bay board members said Thursday they would direct staffers to stop reporting placements off hiring lists if the state does not give them guidance within 10 days. Ultimately, Peck said, the local numbers affect the state's data on how many people Florida's 24 CareerSource centers help get jobs.

Board member Darren Veneri said by sending a letter to state officials about the plan Thursday, the executive board would "put them on notice."

Hillsborough County Commissioner and CareerSource Tampa Bay board member Sandy Murman requested that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office weigh in on the controversy.

"This is a huge public perception issue," Murman said, saying the board had to act to show it was holding the jobs center accountable.

But others worried that suspending some placement reporting would imply the center was breaking rules.

"You're making an assumption to the public then that there is something wrong," said board member Randall King. He said CareerSource Tampa Bay cannot know if anything is wrong until the state weighs in.

Board member John Kearney said he did not want to "indicate the potential of guilt." Nevertheless, the decision passed unanimously.

Kearney advised that moving forward, the board should work with an outside communications firm during the controversy and "put the right face" on what it shares with the public.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2996. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804.

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