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Pat Frank pushes back against PTC criticism of clerk's office

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank shot back Wednesday at claims that her office has mishandled Public Transportation Commission funds.

The PTC gave its executive director, Kyle Cockream, authority to look into whether it could find a better steward of its dollars in the private sector. Cockream has said that the clerk's office has had problems managing PTC money for several years.

Speaking before the PTC on Wednesday — in front of a packed house waiting for the contentious PTC-Uber/Lyft showdown — Frank said the PTC's motivation is entirely fiscal. Hillsborough County recently raised the annual fees for the clerk's offce to manage PTC accounts.

In the waning days of their Democratic primary, Commissioner Kevin Beckner attempted to make the PTC's complaints into an issue. Frank defeated Beckner on Aug. 30. She will face former TV news reporter Eric Seidel, a Republican, in the November general election.

Here are Frank's complete remarks to the PTC as prepared:

Mr chairman, members of the Public Transportation Commission, Two months ago you authorized your staff to explore the privatization of financial services, which my office has handled for more than three decades.

The decision appears to be largely financial, but unfortunately your staff decided to criticize my office during your meeting as well as in comments to reporters. We are used to criticism, particularly during an election campaign. But it's frustrating when we are blamed for something that is not our fault. So I am here today to set the record straight. It's true that independent auditors have made the same critical findings about the PTC's accounting for three years in a row. But despite what your executive director told you, these were not issues with my office. The audits clearly state that the problems are with your staff, which has struggled to adapt to a new computerized accounting system. More training is clearly needed and my staff stands ready to help. My office was also criticized for late payments to vendors and duplicate payments. A review of the past 12 months shows that my office paid your invoices within 3.5 days, though often the invoices were not sent to us for weeks. We cannot pay invoices unless they are sent to us with proper documentation. Also, the same review found only one duplicate payment, which was the result of PTC staff error. Finally, there is the supposed $180,000 payment for an $18,000 vehicle. Let me be clear: It never happened. The invoice was submitted incorrectly by the vendor and caught by the PTC staff. It was never sent to my office. We have repeatedly asked your staff for documentation to back up its complaints about my office.

I am proud of the work my office has done for the PTC and we are fully prepared to continue. If you think you can save money by privatizing these services, feel free. Just don't criticize my office on your way out the door. If you want to save money, you might consider deleting the $120,000 you paid to Corcoran & Associates—a firm with family connections to the incoming speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran. Thank you for your time.