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  1. Pinellas

Director of Pinellas County Contractor Licensing Department resigns amid review

Glenn Wardell had worked for the county for 23 years.
Glenn Wardell, center, was picked last year to be the director of the Pinellas County Contractor Licensing Department. The agency was formerly called the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board. The Florida Legislature stripped its independence after the Tampa Bay Times investigation exposed wrongdoings.

Glenn Wardell, who led the Pinellas County Contractor Licensing Department and was a longtime employee of the county, resigned Friday.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Wardell told county commissioners and the Pinellas legislative delegation that the agency would partner with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because people were running from job sites when licensing inspectors showed up.

At the time, County Administrator Barry Burton called it an "overreach" and ordered Wardell to enforce only construction laws.

"We've had issues," Burton said Friday, declining further comment. "He resigned."

Wardell, 58, worked 23 years with the county.

Burton tapped a familiar face to serve as interim director: Gay Lancaster, a former county administrator who served as interim leader of the agency from February 2017 through June 2018.

RELATED COVERAGE: Pinellas County ends plan to partner with federal officials to check immigration status of contractors

Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board plays fast and loose with disciplinary process

Pinellas licensing board leader Rodney Fischer described as a 'bully' and 'suspicious' in clashes with employees and county officials

Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

Times investigation: Pinellas County construction agency steered work to board member

Last month, Wardell said he planned to target "non-English speaking people" who were evading inspectors at jobs sites. He also said inspectors would receive training from federal officials.

Burton said neither of the practices would occur. Inspectors will ask the Sheriff's Office for help if workers sprint away from job sites, he added.

The agency, once called the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, made headlines in 2017 after a series of Times' investigations found the agency didn't adjudicate disputes between consumers, didn't follow state law and failed to protect homeowners from unlicensed contractors.

As a result, the Florida Legislature passed a law in 2018 to end the agency's independence. Pinellas County government took control July 1.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

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