The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.
That’s unless he is paid five months severance.
In a letter from his attorney to the chairmen of both agencies, Edward Peachey demands the payout as an "amicable resolution" that would allow him to depart as president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay and have time to find a new job.
The four-page letter — with the heading "for settlement purposes only" — characterizes Peachey as the victim of false accusations that are part of a vendetta by the local news media, including the Tampa Bay Times, and says the chairmen of both agencies know that.
"Mr. Peachey has withstood this assault on his reputation without lashing out at those who have falsely accused him but the time for silence has ended," said the letter from attorney Marion Hale. "Mr. Peachey will not be intimidated by bullies whether they are bullies who buy ink by the barrel or public officials who step outside the scope of their office."
The letter threatens CareerSource board members and county commissioners on both side of the bay with legal action if they cause him "economic harm" based on false information.
Hale says she is drafting a complaint claiming "tortious interference, defamation and conspiracy" that could be filed against board members individually. She warned it would be cheaper to pay Peachey.
In addition to severance, Peachey, 54, is seeking $125 an hour to cooperate with federal, state and local investigations after his departure and to receive all of his CareerSource benefits for 10 months, Hale wrote.
"In return, he would be willing to execute a mutual general release with both CareerSource boards," Hale wrote.
Peachey’s demands come two days after CareerSource Pinellas board chair Jack Geller and CareerSource Tampa Bay board chair Dick Peck called emergency meetings for next week to consider firing Peachey.
The executive committees of both boards will discuss the letter next week, Geller and Peck said without further comment. The Hillsborough committee meets on Monday; Pinellas meets on Wednesday.
Both CareerSource boards suspended Peachey earlier this month. In recent weeks, they have held several meetings to discuss how both agencies report job placement figures to the state. They have appealed to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for guidance. The agencies also paid thousands of dollars for a lawyer to conduct an internal investigation.
The Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month 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, which included the names of people they had not helped. They then reported some of those names as though they had.
TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: CAREERSOURCE
Geller 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 as Peachey was insisting publicly that they had done nothing wrong.
The state DEO 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 inquiries.
In her letter, Hale said Geller and Peck know that Peachey "has done an excellent job" of leading the agencies. She accused Hillsborough County commissioners, who have asked CareerSource board members to consider firing Peachey if he doesn’t step down, of operating outside their authority.
"If the boards of CareerSource allow themselves to be bullied, they might as well resign themselves and ask the media to sit in their place," Hale wrote.
The letter also said the Times "convinced" Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to call his relationship with CareerSource Pinellas a "scam" after he learned Peachey took credit for 624 of his hires. Gualtieri said he later discovered that CareerSource employees forged his signature on records.
The newspaper, Gualtieri said, did not convince him to do anything. He said he made the statements after reviewing records and stands behind his statements.
"They are patently false and misleading," Gualtieri said about the allegations in Hale’s letter, adding that Peachey "needs to take responsibility for his own actions."
Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente