State Senator Steps Into Florida County Commissioners Row
📅 Tue February 07, 2017 - Northeast Edition
By Mark Puente
Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, has said he'll block any legislation to add government oversight to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board. The resignation of the old director and the appointment of a new one is enough for now, he said. But the Pinellas County Commission is set to meet Tuesday to consider a measure aimed at appeasing Latvala's objections. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
State Sen. Jack Latvala shocked Pinellas County commissioners recently when he said he would block any legislation aimed at adding oversight or significantly altering the licensing board.
Executive director Rodney Fischer retired last week amid a series of reports by the Tampa Bay Times that raised questions about the way the board disciplines contractors and how Fischer ran the agency.
The Florida Legislature created the board in 1973, so only legislators can fix it.
Commissioners and the county administrator wanted to model the licensing board after one in Palm Beach County that reports to government officials. They said Pinellas taxpayers have complained to them about the culture and lack of oversight at the licensing board.
The proposal would also ban members from serving more than four consecutive years as chairman. The Times found that several members of the Pinellas board have served for decades.
The original special act also had term limits, but those were removed years later.
The agency's governing board is currently composed of 21 members: 14 private contractors and seven local building and fire officials. The appointments are approved by the County Commission, but the board runs itself and reports to no other authority.
Latvala who said he has known Fischer for 30 years, said bringing in a new executive director and changing the way board members are appointed is enough reform for now.
He said lawmakers don't have enough time to overhaul a 44-year-old board before the Florida Legislature meets next month
Fischer told the licensing board staff last week that he retired as part of a "deal" to keep the agency from being placed under county oversight. Latvala confirmed he talked to Fischer about keeping the board autonomous but made no promises in return for him to step down.
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