Friday, August 23, 2013

Padilla's reported moonlighting latest headache for Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Victor Crist is well aware of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission's (PTC) unsavory reputation, which is why one of his efforts to reform it since taking over as board chair this year is to develop an operations manual with detailed standards. That includes having Executive Director Cesar Padilla work under a contract, rather than as a general employee, which has been the case since 2007.

But in recently discussing the new terms with Padilla, Crist uncovered a new controversy with the troubled agency: Padilla's been moonlighting on the job for the past couple of years.

On Thursday, Crist learned that Padilla made more than $6,000 last year for providing security services for Tampa Machinery Auction, which conducts auctions for surplus vehicles and equipment. Crist asked County Attorney Chip Fletcher to investigate the situation, and depending on what the attorney finds, he may call an emergency board meeting.

"It's one thing if he's taking a legitimate holiday or time off that he has earned," the commissioner said. "It's another thing if he's claiming that he's working in his office, but actually getting paid to work somewhere else."

Padilla is on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.

The revelation is just the latest bit of negative news for the PTC, which regulates taxis, ambulances, low trucks and other vehicles in Hillsborough County. It was created by the state legislature back in the 1970s, and is the only agency of its type in Florida.

Crist said that as part of a new contract for Padilla (who makes $107,000 annually), he wants the PTC executive director to take courses in ethics, the Sunshine Law, and organizational development. He also wants Padilla to get a financial and criminal background check. "These are things that I'm trying to do that he doesn't want to," Crist said.

Crist called local reporters yesterday once he had definitive proof about Padilla's extra curricular activities. He said he did so because he didn't want anyone to think this happened under his watch, "because that ain't the case."

At the most recent PTC meeting, Crist referenced the fact that the agency is under siege, alluding to how some state legislators have been talking about killing it. I recently reported that Hillsborough area Rep. Jamie Grant said he's looking into possible legislation that would do just that. Grant said his biggest objection is that the agency stifles innovation.

But Crist said the agency is worth saving, something he admitted he wouldn't have said prior to becoming chairman and learning more about what the commission does. He said it provides three things that other counties in Florida can't do: 1) Assures the customer getting into a cab or limo that it's in good condition and "it's going to do what you're paying it to do"; 2) Mandates that all such vehicles have insurance in case of an accident or worse; 3) Provides consumer protections.

"It assures the customer that he or she isn't getting into a car with a convicted felon," he said, adding that such incidents have occurred in the past.

When asked how the other 66 counties in Florida survive without their own PTC, Crist simply replied, "they would do it if they could."

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