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Hillsborough Clerk Pat Frank gets the last word in beef with Hillsborough PTC

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Less than two weeks before Hillsborough County Democrats went to the polls last month to vote in the clerk of the court race, WTSP-Channel 10 ran an explosive story on how the Public Transportation Commission had lost faith in the office, and was now taking public money away from the clerk’s control. The story painted Clerk of the Court Pat Frank in an extremely bad light, just as early voting had begun in her bitter primary race against Kevin Beckner. Ultimately, the story did nothing to harm her electoral prospects, and she ended up crushing Beckner by more than 18 percentage points on Election Day.

Frank stood before the PTC board and its executive director, Kyle Cockream, at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, and blasted the public bashing of her office.

“We’re used to criticism,” she said, but added that it was “frustrating when when we are blamed for something that is not our fault.”

Frank acknowledged independent auditors made critical discoveries surrounding the PTC’s accounting in the past three years, but contended those issues had nothing to do with the clerk’s office.

“The audits clearly state that the problems are with your staff, which has struggled to adapt to a new computerized accounting system,” she said. “More training is clearly needed and my staff stands ready to help. My office was also criticized for late payments to vendors and duplicate payments. A review of the past 12 months shows that my office paid your invoices within 3.5 days, though often the invoices were not sent to us for weeks. We cannot pay invoices unless they are sent to us with proper documentation. Also, the same review found only one duplicate payment, which was the result of PTC staff error.”

The story also alleged the PTC had discovered the clerk’s office was about to pay $180,000 for an $18,000 vehicle.

Never happened, Frank said on Wednesday.

“The invoice was submitted incorrectly by the vendor and caught by the PTC staff,” she said. “It was never sent to my office. We have repeatedly asked your staff for documentation to back up its complaints about my office.”

The clerk’s office has handled the accounting for the PTC for decades, but Cockream has recently authorized the agency to begin looking for services from the private sector. In her parting remarks, Frank said he should “feel free” to do so, but “just don’t criticize my office on your way out the door.”

But before leaving the dais, Frank took a shot at the agency’s payment to the Tallahassee lobbying firm of Corcoran & Associates in 2015 — a payment noted PTC critic Jeff Brandes called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate

“If you want to save money, you might consider deleting the $120,000 you paid to Corcoran & Associates — a firm with family connections to the incoming speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran. Thank you for your time.”

There was no microphone for Frank to drop, or she undoubtedly would have done so with that zinger.

“I’m really sorry if anyone’s feelings got hurt in all of this. That was certainly not the intention,” Cockream responded later in the afternoon, adding he has had recent conversations with Frank’s staff. “If we can find a resolution to the issues at hand, then that’s the end of the game. I don’t see any benefit in engaging in any public bantering back and forth about it. She’s an elected official and I respect that office and I’d never do that.”

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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