HARTLINE - Mitch Perry

03/17/04

Today the Hillsborough County Commission discussed an internal review recently completed regarding HARTLINE, the County's Regional Transit Authority.....

The review, released on Monday, focused on construction and operations of the TECO Line Streetcar System, which the transit authority developed along with the city of Tampa.

The Draft report found evidence that HARTLINE had diverted money allocated for bus service over to the Streetcar. County Auditor Kathleen Matthews also found that the engineer in charge of streetcar construction - Steve Carrol - acted with little or no oversight and ignored purchasing requirements.

HARTLINE officials immediately denounced the report, saying it was unfair that the agency has not had the opportunity to review the report before it was released to the press.

Controversy has swirled around the entire investigation, which was initially instigated after a disgruntled HARTLINE employee, John Dausman, went to WFLA Channel 8

With allegations that there were improprieties at the organization in relation to the streetcar financing.

More bad blood continue with the release of the draft report...HARTLINE called it out of bounds because they had NOT had time to review the allegations.....But Auditor Kathleen Matthews said officials from the transit agency blew off scheduled meetings with her - and after they made a public records request to view the report, she released it to the general public.

County Commissioner Ronda Storms - no fan of HARTLINE - questioned Matthews about HARTLINE's comments about the draft report (roll tape#1 o.q."that's what happened")

Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Thomas Scott angrily denounced HARTLINE Executive Director Sharon Dent, saying he'd like to see her fired..... And he repeated an explosive charge of illegal activities within HARTLINE regarding the audit (roll tape#2 o.q." in the process"...And Scott said he had forwarded that information to the State Attorney's office.

An issue of contention of the Draft report is whether or not it is illegal that Ad Valorem taxes were used by HARTLINE on the street car, and not on bus service......Commissioner Jan Platt, one of the few vocal members of the Commission SUPPORTING HARTLINE, argued that it is within HARTLINE's charter to use those tax funds for something like the street car (roll tape#3 o.q."it doesn't limit it to bus")

At issue before the Commission is whether to allocate the $1.3 million dollars budgeted for HARTLINE, to enhance weekend....

Another audit is being conducted by Hillsborough's Circuit Court Clerk Richard Ake.....

Commissioner Pat Frank said after that report is delivered, , she wants to stop the funding of HARTLINE (roll tape#4 o.q."misuse of monies")

Last year Commissioner Frank was the swing vote in a major discussion about future Transportation projects ..........At that time, she said she could vote in support of the plan, which would include a gas tax increase, IF Hartline showed they were prepared to use the money to increase service...But Frank said she was sorely disappointed by HARTLINE's response (roll tape#5 o.q."not support that")

The Commission voted at the end of the day to await the official completion of County Auditor Kathleen Mathhew's final report.....

Commissioner Thomas Scott was told he could NOT advocate the removal of HARTLINE Board members.....

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