CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey.
Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chairman of the CareerSource Tampa Bay board, which serves Hillsborough County, both said during a joint workshop Wednesday that Peachey misled them about how the agencies report job numbers to the state.
"Ed Peachey has lost credibility in the market," Peck said.
Earlier in the day, the Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously to seek Peachey’s resignation or to ask the CareerSource board to fire him if he refuses.
"It has gotten so serious that we have to step in and make things right," Commissioner Sandy Murman said.
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: CAREERSOURCE
The moves come a week after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the sister agencies, both of which were run by Peachey, took credit for finding work for thousands of people they had not assisted. Both agencies receive millions in tax dollars each year to help people find jobs.
They work with companies who agree to consider candidates who turn to the agencies for job-hunting assistance. The Times examination found CareerSource employees sought hiring lists from those same companies, even of people they had not helped. They then reported their names to the state as though they had.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which collects the job-placement figures from two dozen CareerSource centers around the state, launched an investigation last month after the Times first questioned the numbers. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and U.S. Department of Labor quickly followed with their own investigations.
Both CareerSource boards suspended Peachey earlier this month. In recent weeks, they have held several meetings to discuss the reporting methods and demand answers from the state on the correct approach. The agencies also paid thousands of dollars for a lawyer to conduct an internal investigation.
Geller, the CareerSource Pinellas chairman, said Wednesday that two high-ranking employees have told interim leaders of the agencies that Peachey ordered them on Jan. 25 to change how they report jobs numbers to the state. That order came even as Peachey was insisting publicly that they had done nothing wrong in their reporting.
"He sat through two meetings while we discussed it," Geller said of Peachey.
Once Geller disclosed the information, the board members agreed that Peachy needed to either resign or face termination.
"That is a huge problem," Murman said. "This isn’t even a point of discussion. It has to be taken swiftly."
Peachey’s employment contract expired in January. CareerSource attorney Charles Harris said the boards should ask Peachey to resign or terminate him "without cause." The Hillsborough board likely will meet Friday to consider terminating Peachey, Peck said. The Pinellas board could meet by Feb. 28, Geller said.
One board member asked Wednesday whether Peachy could receive a severance package.
Murman objected, saying, "this is not the best use of taxpayer dollars to pay anything."
The Times also reported last week that Peachey signed off on four substantial raises for his top administrator, Haley Loeun. He also approved hiring three of her relatives since 2014. CareerSource employees and an anonymous letter sent to commissioners claim Peachey and Loeun are in a romantic relationship.
Peachey has declined to comment to the Times about the nature of his relationship with Loeun. She has said she has a "professional relationship" with Peachey and considers him a "close friend."
Loeun’s brother, Howard Nguyen, resigned on Friday, officials said.
Geller said it’s time for the agency to move forward without Peachey.
"He has made some bad judgment moves," he said. "They’re not good decisions."
Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.