10 News Investigators: Critics are saying the Pasco Housing Authority is out of control and wasting money

8:44 AM, Aug 19, 2011   |    comments
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Dade City, Florida -- More criticism is coming out regarding the Pasco Housing Authority following our 10 News Investigators stories. Besides the allegations of sex on the job and fraud at the agency, it appears tax dollars are being wasted at the agency as well.

The people who are being hurt are the residents of the public  housing projects like Elizabeth Carr, who says, "There are so many people here putting up with unsafe health conditions."

Carr  and others who live in the apartments say glue comes up from the floors, there is mold, and there are electrical hazards.

"Every single person out here has been a victim in one manner or another, and everybody is scared," she says.

Whistle blower complaints have detailed allegations of padding overtime payments, fraud, bribery and sex on the job. In court records, the Pasco Housing Authority denies those charges.

Don't tell that to Pat Driscoll, who says he was getting  paid for having sex at work.

Driscoll admits he took advantage of taxpayers by getting paid for having sex with executive director Karen Turner. Driscoll also says Turner padded his overtime. He thinks Turner should be fired and he should be fined for what they did. 

Whistleblowers say after Driscoll left the agency, Turner cultivated a relationship with another employee, Bill Dillon.  Dillon has been compensated for hundreds of hours of overtime, including once logging more than 26 hours in one day.

Pat LaPierre, is one of a group of workers who say they were fired last week for speaking out. He says thousands of taxpayer dollars are being wasted in several ways, including all maintenance workers being  allowed to drive their cars home. That adds  93,657 miles for gas and wear and tear each year. Then there is the $25,000 paid to a Section 8 landlord for a tenant who was terminated from the program. 

George Romagnoli, who is the community development manager for Pasco County says, "We have taxpayer funds being used, and they have to make sure they are being used responsibly."

According to Romagnoli, the board turned down $250,000 from the county to repair units and turned down millions from HUD for various reasons. However, critics say they believe the board didn't want any oversight.

Romagnoli says, "I am concerned about that agency, which is a vital agency for Pasco County."

State Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) says, "No one is being held responsible."

Fasano says because the housing authority boards are political appointees who don't  have to answer to state boards or the voters, they can pretty much operate as they see fit. Fasano says that can lead to abuses like this and says that has got to change.

According to Fasano, "People say enough is enough and  this why they are outraged." Fasano adds it upsets people when they see their tax dollars wasted and spent foolishly and people not accountable.

That's why he is intends to introduce  legislation to put the agency under county commission control. But for now, not only do tax dollars appear to be wasted, but those who need help the most have to live in less than desirable conditions.

And your tax dollars are funding this agency that critics say is out of control.

The Housing Authority  will hold an emergency meeting next week to address the allegations we have brought. Meantime, it says it didn't want the Pasco grant, because the County wanted a mortgage on the property to insure the money would be used correctly. It also says it didn't qualify for the money from HUD.

Pasco County says that is not true. Finally, the board chair says she doesn't believe any of the allegations raised in our stories are going on at the agency.

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