Children's Board CEO quits amid pressure; Former Tampa Mayor Iorio to take her spot listen07/24/12 Janelle Irwin
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The head of the Childrenâ€™s Board of Hillsborough County is resigning from her six-figure position. Embattled CEO Luanne Panacek is throwing in the towel after results of a damning report were released earlier this month. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is on the board of directors. He wanted to oust Panacek in part because of controversy surrounding the boardâ€™s use of no-bid contracts.
â€œIt started to becoming revealed to us that there were more than anticipated no-bid contracts that had gone out that we needed to make sure that the processes that were in place to award services â€“ we had to make sure that was fair and that there were the appropriate checks and balances that were in place and that was a larger concern of mine.â€
Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has agreed to take the CEO spot for six months. Dan Casseday, spokesperson for the Childrenâ€™s Board, said Iorio will start whittling away at a list of complaints released by the Seffner-based company Invictus.
â€œShe also will be looking at restoring the confidence and integrity of the Childrenâ€™s Board and in effect becoming the face of the Childrenâ€™s Board of Hillsborough County.â€
Casseday said the study revealed that many employees felt that leadership lacked integrity and ethics. According to the report, more than 90% of employees said they were frustrated with their job and 83% of managers reported that executive leadership did not hold employees accountable for poor performance or inappropriate behavior.
â€œAs a result, the board decided that this report warranted some changes at the Childrenâ€™s Board and it became a situation where CEO Luanne Panacek decided it would be in the best interest of the Childrenâ€™s Board to resign.â€
Panacek annual salary is $171,000 and she will get roughly that amount as a severance package. According to a press release, her last official day will be October 1 of this year. But Casseday said starting on August 1, Panacekâ€™s work with the board will be limited.
â€œDr. Panacek will mainly be available as a consultant to help us with our RFP process which is the process of how we are refunding our social service programs and that will be the main thing that she is consulting on.â€
The Childrenâ€™s Board is funded by a half mil ad-valorem tax. That means homeowners contribute 50 cents per every $1,000 of assessed value on their homes to the board. Voters could decide to kill the funding in 2016 when it will be on a ballot.
â€œSo, it is in the best interest of the Childrenâ€™s Board to become known to the public and explain what weâ€™re doing with a few dollars a month of the taxpayers money to provide millions of dollars to help not just what you would think of as charity organizations, but many middle-class families in Hillsborough County as well. So, it would be good to have more exposure in general for the Childrenâ€™s Board.â€
The Childrenâ€™s Board spends about $30 million a year on services and items that benefit children in Hillsborough County. Spokesperson Dan Casseday said he wants more people to know what benefits they provide so when it comes time to vote, they know what theyâ€™re voting for.
â€œWe use the money to provide healthy births, improving school readiness for children and school progress â€“ especially now for making sure that children are able to read at grade level by grade three.â€
Part of the reason theyâ€™re choosing Pam Iorio is that she is well known in Hillsborough not just as former Tampa Mayor, but also through her work with the University of Tampa and a book she authored about being a good leader. Board member Kevin Beckner said the group hasnâ€™t discussed her role together yet, butâ€¦
â€œMy personal feeling is she has been a very strong leader, has a lot of respect in our community, Iâ€™ve had a great working relationship when she was mayor and I have a lot of faith and confidence that Pam will be able to do a good job in the interim and again, one of the biggest priorities is to provide stability.â€
The leadership swap isnâ€™t a done deal yet because board members still have to vote on the proposals on August 1. If the measure passes Iorio will start on August 2. Her salary hasnâ€™t been negotiated yet. Iorio will serve as interim CEO for six months while the board conducts a national search for a permanent replacement. Panacek was not available for comment. Mayor Pam Iorio issued this response:
"I believe in helping our community when the need arises and the situation at the Childrenâ€™s Board presents such a need. If the Board concurs with the Chairmanâ€™s recommendation, I will agree to serve in an interim capacity as the Childrenâ€™s Board CEO. As I expressed to the Chairman, I will do so with the understanding that I can continue my leadership speaking and my affiliation with the University of Tampa and that the term of this interim contract will be a limited one. Working with the Board and staff I am confident we can set this agency back on a positive course.