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After critical audit, Tampa shakes up underperforming Clean City team

Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the audit confirmed his suspicions about the Clean City program.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the audit confirmed his suspicions about the Clean City program.
Published Feb. 7, 2013

TAMPA — A month after a critical audit turned up inefficiency, lax record-keeping and questionable spending in Tampa's Clean City program, Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Wednesday announced that Clean City is being merged with code enforcement.

In the shakeup, City Hall eliminated the jobs of Clean City division manager Jim Pinkney and three of his district supervisors. The four were laid off Monday.

Going forward, code enforcement and the Clean City program will be combined into a division known as Neighborhood Enhancement. That new division will report to a new manager, former Tampa police Maj. Sal Ruggiero, who retired in 2011 after 29 years with the department. Buckhorn has known Ruggiero for decades and has ridden with him on drug raids.

"He's a proven manager of people," Buckhorn said. "He recognizes the impact that code issues and quality of life issues have on neighborhoods that are deteriorating. He's seen it. He's lived it."

The new division will enforce all non-criminal city ordinances, codes and regulations, maintain medians and vacant lots and work to reduce litter, graffiti and illegal dumping. Ruggiero will oversee five supervisors — four of whom will each be responsible for a quadrant of Tampa, plus a fifth who will manage a "rapid response team."

"Code enforcement identifies the problems and to some degree Clean City can help provide the solutions," Buckhorn said. "I think it can be a very effective, two-pronged attack on neighborhood blight."

Consolidating leadership will reduce the total number of supervisory positions from seven to six, saving an estimated $70,000 a year, officials say.

The Clean City program has 48 employees who maintain 355 miles of roads and medians, plus city-owned lots. In January, the city's internal auditors concluded that the program:

• Did not have records ensuring properties were being maintained on schedule.

• Failed to respond to requests for service in a timely way.

• Used city credit cards for hundreds of dollars of non-official expenses, including party supplies and a granite marker in a city park honoring a community leader.

• Twice split the purchase of landscaping materials into two credit card transactions in an apparent attempt to circumvent a requirement that purchases of more than $2,000 take place only after officials seek three quotes.

• Bought $40,572 worth of weed trimmers, leaf blowers and other equipment, more than half of which had not been put to use.

Officials said city neighborhood services director Jake Slater, who was named to that position about a year ago, has been scrutinizing the Clean City program for nine or 10 months.

"I have thought since I got here that we had leadership issues there, we had accountability issues there," Buckhorn said. When the audit arrived, he said, "It was what I suspected but had not been able to prove."

Pinkney, 52, had been a city employee for more than 12 years and had an annual salary of $89,981. The three district supervisors whose jobs were eliminated were each paid $68,474.

City Council member Harry Cohen, who moved for Buckhorn's administration to report on Thursday about what it was doing to follow up on the audit, said he was "glad to see that they are moving to make changes."

"We need to improve service," he said. Around the time the audit came out, a resident of Harbour Island pointed out to Cohen that medians on the island the city was responsible for maintaining were "completely overgrown," he said. And as of this week, no action had been taken.

"I hope that with this reorganization we can really get about the task of getting to work on some of these projects that have built up and need to be addressed," Cohen said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.

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