'Throw it in the street'?
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 16, 2001
The Tampa City Council made the right decision by refusing to renew the contract with the Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan. Giving THAP, a non-profit housing agency, another penny in public funds would make a mockery of ethics and accountability. The city should sever its ties and find a new partner to provide housing to low-income residents.
No responsible partner would have put the city or its clients in this position. THAP has had months to explain its role in a city housing scandal and clean up the fallout. The agency still hasn't produced an audit. Board members won't address financial irregularities. They won't discuss the severance package for ousted president Chet Luney, even though Luney reportedly still drives the agency's $40,000 SUV. We have no idea where millions of tax dollars have gone, why THAP officials hired relatives or why a housing agency for the poor involved itself in risky and unrelated ventures.
An agency worth saving would have done back-flips to fix the damage. Not THAP. Its new president, James Hammond, had the gall on Thursday to put the squeeze on the city to bail out THAP's program for AIDS-patient housing. It was a cheap trick -- making the city look responsible because THAP couldn't manage its own finances.
THAP is broke because the governing board didn't do its job. Where was the board when Luney and others were out charging thousands of dollars to dine out? Why was the head of a social services agency authorized to buy season's tickets to the Tampa Bay Bucs, Lightning and Devil Rays? Hammond even told the Tampa Tribune that THAP's many corporate arms gave the agency license to spend as it liked. "If we make money, we can spend it anyway we want," he said. "We can throw it in the street if we want to."
Throw it in the street.
That's about the last thing the public, the City Council and the mayor's office needs to hear, especially coming from an agency under federal investigation. Hammond's arrogance shows that THAP faces tremendous problems changing its stripes. The city should cancel its contracts, even if some services are lost in the interim. Getting rid of THAP should be thought of as an investment in getting the housing program back on track.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times