Tampa Bay Times - - From The Front Page - Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tam­ or (727) 892-2996. Fol­low @MarkPuente

have be­fore Tues­day,” County Com­mis­sioner Ken Welch said. “This is new in­for­ma­tion to me. It doesn’t help. It’s def­i­nitely a concern. This puts the leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion in a bad po­si­tion.”

Added Com­mis­sioner Pat Ger­ard: “This thing keeps go­ing around and around. I didn’t know.”

White did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on Fri­day. She was ap­pointed county at­tor­ney in July af­ter serv­ing as the deputy of for­mer county at­tor­ney Jim Bennett, who re­tired af­ter three decades of pub­lic ser­vice.

A se­ries of Tampa Bay Times re­ports ear­lier this year showed how the agency was mis­man­aged, failed to fol­low its own rules and an­gered both con­sumers and con­trac­tors with how it doled out dis­ci­pline. Bennett has been crit­i­cized for the le­gal advice his of­fice gave the agency.

Then on Sept. 20, two re­ports were is­sued re­gard­ing the board. One was the county’s in­spec­tor gen­eral report that out­lined 93 is­sues with the li­cens­ing board. The other was a grand jury report sug­gest­ing ways to re­form the agency.


De­spite the le­gal con­fu­sion, Pinel­las law­mak­ers still submitted three pro­pos­als for re­form­ing the agency. To meet the pub­lic-no­tice re­quire­ments for the Nov. 1 meet­ing of the county leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion, those bills had to be submitted by Fri­day to be in­tro­duced in the 2018 ses­sion. The Leg­is­la­ture cre­ated the in­de­pen­dent li­cens­ing board in 1973, so only it can re­form the board.

One bill from state Sen. Jeff Bran­des, R-St. Peters­burg, and Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, gives county com­mis­sion­ers con­trol of ap­point­ing board members (no one more rec­om­men­da­tions from con­trac­tors’ groups) and would al­low the agency to be dis­solved by vot­ers in a coun­ty­wide ref­er­en­dum. The County Com­mis­sion could also re­move board members at any time.

Bran­des fa­vored dis­solv­ing the board and giving its du­ties to the county. But he ad­justed his bill given the le­gal advice from White and a Florida House at­tor­ney. Bran­des said he could still amend his bill later to take stronger mea­sures.

An­other bill from Sen. Dar­ryl Rou­son, D-St. Peters­burg, and Rep. Kath­leen Peters, R-South Pasadena, would not abol­ish the agency, ei­ther. In­stead it would model the li­cens­ing board on a sim­i­lar reg­u­lat­ing agency in Palm Beach County. There, board members dis­ci­pline con­trac­tors but the county sets the bud­get and runs the staff. Rep. Ben Di­a­mond, D-St. Peters­burg, submitted a sim­i­lar pro­posal. Rou­son said his bill would nul­lify any potential char­ter is­sues because it amends the 1973 law, in­stead of get­ting rid of it.

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