TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state.
Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commissioners can’t fire Peachey, but they can appoint and remove board members who oversee CareerSource Tampa Bay, which helps people find jobs in Hillsborough. If Peachey fails to step down, and CareerSource board members refuse to fire him, Murman said commissioners should replace those board members.
"It does reflect on our county," Murman told commissioners. "I believe the confidence has been eroded."
Commissioners unanimously approved Murman’s request to send a letter to the Hillsborough CareerSource board of directors spelling out their concerns.
The board must "preserve the reputation and community trust of such an important agency" and "move expeditiously to investigate and address the serious allegations," the letter stated.
The "seriousness" of the allegations and "the lack of an adequate response from Mr. Peachey are troubling," it said.
Federal, state and local authorities have launched a series of investigations after the Tampa Bay Times began raising questions about how CareerSource Tampa Bay and sister agency CareerSource Pinellas report job placement figures.
Last week, the Times reported that the agencies, both of which were run by Peachey, took credit for finding thousands of jobs for people who never registered with them for help. The Times also reported that Peachey signed off on four substantial raises for 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 his relationship with Loeun. She has said she has a "professional relationship" with Peachey and considers him a "close friend."
The Times articles include details that "reflect the poor decisions" by Peachey, Murman said.
"It has gotten so serious that we have to step in and make things right," she said.
The two agencies report the number of people they help place into jobs to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which is among those now now investigating the figures. The U.S. Department of Labor and Florida Department of Law Enforcement also have launched investigations while an ad hoc committee formed by the local agencies examines their reporting practices.
Murman said she learned early Wednesday that federal officials have subpoenaed records from both job centers.
Peachey has been suspended as the president and CEO of both agencies and has said they have done nothing wrong. He has said the DEO should have caught any discrepancies with the job figures reported.
Peachey, 54, has led the Pinellas County jobs center since 2003 and took over the Hillsborough County agency in 2010, tasked with cleaning it up after a spending scandal.
The agencies are two of the state’s 24 CareerSource programs, which receive tens of millions in tax dollars each year to help train and place people in jobs. Job seekers must register with a local CareerSource center, where they can attend workshops on subjects like resume writing, interviewing and computer skills. The agency then refers individuals to employers who have agreed to consider them as candidates.
For CareerSource to take credit for placing them into jobs, the employers must hire the individuals. But the Times found both local agencies claimed credit for helping find jobs for people who were hired by companies separately, without any involvement by CareerSource.
Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente